Direct flights resume for Syria hajj pilgrims after 12-year halt

AFP , Tuesday 28 May 2024

Direct flights from Syria to Saudi Arabia for pilgrims taking part in the annual hajj resumed on Tuesday, ending 12 years of isolation since the civil war began, a Syrian official told AFP.

Syrian Muslim pilgrims
File Photo: Syrian Muslim pilgrims approach the Turkish border at the Bab al-Hawa crossing on their way to attend the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia via Turkey. AFP


The move follows a slow rapprochement between the two governments that saw diplomatic relations restored last year.

Transport Ministry official Suleiman Khalil said that a flight carrying 270 Syrian pilgrims left Damascus for Jeddah with more flights expected in the coming days.

It was a first after "all (passenger) flights between the two countries were halted in 2012," Khalil said.

"This decision only applies to the hajj period," he said. "We are studying the reopening of a direct air route."

In May 2023, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attended his first Arab summit in 13 years in Saudi Arabia, mending ties with Riyadh and allowing the country's return to the Arab fold.

While Saudi Arabia had championed restoring ties with Assad, the rapprochement has been sluggish.

Saudi Arabia only named a new ambassador to Damascus on Sunday, more than a year after the two governments restored relations.

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