A French airplane landed at Baghdad International Airport Sunday in an inaugural flight by the Aigle Azur airline, which was the first passenger plane to fly into Iraq from France in 20 years.
On board of the plane was the French Trade Minister Anne-Marie Idrac, accompanied by a number of businessmen, investors and journalists on a two-day visit during which the Baghdad-Paris route will officially be opened.
Admittedly this was just a test flight, with normal scheduled flights not expected for another two or three months, but it is regarded by the Iraqi government as an important step towards the normalisation of relations with the outside world.
Some carriers, such as Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa, fly from Western Europe to the city of Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, but there have been no direct flights from western Europe to the capital, Baghdad.
The lack of direct flights from Western Europe to Baghdad has been a major obstacle to foreign investment. If successful, three flights per week will be operated by the French carrier.
The French Minister is expected to sign several contracts between the two countries, including an agreement to secure French investments in Iraq and lifting the Iraqi ban on the import of French meat, in addition to investment and trade contracts for a number of French companies.
About 50 French companies are expected to exhibit their products at Baghdad's International Fair, which opened on Monday.
Meanwhile, al-Naser Airlines said that it will fly its first service from London to Baghdad this week.
(Sources: AKnews, The Independent)