Turkish Airlines operated its first direct flight from Istanbul to Najaf on Tuesday.
AKnews reports that the plane carried Turkish businessmen to the holy city. The airline will operate three flights from Istanbul to Najaf every week with plans to increase the number of flights gradually to reach 7 flights per week.
Head of Najaf provincial council Faid Kadhim Noun, said: “The operation of the flight between Istanbul and Najaf means a lot for the city because Najaf with its historical, religious and archeological aspects will be connected to Turkey and this will also mean the opening of a gateway to Europe.”
Currently, the company operates flights to three other destinations in Iraq: Baghdad, Sulaimaniyah and Erbil.
“Najaf will not be the final destination for us in Iraq, just as it was not the first,” said Turkish Airline’s director Hamit Tubcu in a joint press conference with the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad and the head of the provincial council of Najaf.
The new route is expected to increase the flow of tourists and Shia pilgrims to the city – home to the shrine of Imam Ali, Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and a figure regarded by Shia Muslims as the first Imam.
Noun used the opportunity to also call on Turkish investors and businessmen to visit Najaf to check out the investment opportunities there. Turkish businesses are having an increasing influence in Iraq, with trade between the two countries second only to Iraq’s trade with Iran.