BAGHDAD (Agence France Presse) (Armenpress)–On December 17 a Turkish plane and an Armenian one landed in Baghdad–in further defiance of an international air embargo against Iraq. The Turkish plane brought to Iraq representatives from Turkish commercial firms. Turkey has called for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions on Iraq–which it estimates has cost it some 35 billion dollars in lost revenue. However–the Turkish parliament voted to extend for six months the mandate of US and British warplanes who use Turkey as a base to enforce a no-fly zone on northern Iraq.
The Armenian plane–the first from the country–landed at Saddam International Airport carrying a delegation of political and business leaders–including former prime minister Aram Sarkissian and 5,000 tons of humanitarian aid–chiefly locally produced medicines and food. The flight was organized by the Armenia-Iraq parliamentary friendship group. The head of the group Ghukas Ulikhanian said the aid had been collected by Armenian businessmen. Iraqi Industry and Minerals Minister Adnan Abd-al-Majid received Sarkisian and the delegation of Armenian businessmen.
During the meeting–the minister praised the initiative of the friends in Armenia in coming to Baghdad by air to break the embargo that has been imposed on Iraq since 1990. He stressed the ministry’s readiness to expand industrial cooperation with the friendly Armenia to serve joint interests. Sarkisian said he is happy to visit Iraq and to express solidarity with the friendly Iraqi people–emphasizing his country’s eagerness to promote relations with Iraq on all levels.
Baghdad bitterly rejects the flight restrictions on its northern and southern regions–with incidents between the US-British force and Iraqi air defenses a nearly daily occurrence.Several dozen planes have landed at Saddam International since its reopening August 17–led by sanctions-busting flights from Russia and France.