By Andy Sambidge
Airline says it will become first Kuwaiti carrier to service Iraq with flights to Al Najaf
Jazeera Airways said on Saturday it has won approval to become the first Kuwaiti carrier to operate flights to Iraq.
The airline said it has secured rights to operate a Kuwait-Al Najaf route and intends to launch "within the next six months".
The announcement follows successful bilateral discussions between the governments of Kuwait and Iraq, the carrier said in a statement.
Jazeera Airways, which currently operates 18 non-stop routes in the Middle East from Kuwait, will be the first Kuwaiti airline to operate a scheduled service to Iraq, it added.
The bilateral discussions also granted access to Kuwaiti airlines to operate to other Iraqi cities, including Mosul, Baghdad, Arbil and others.
Set up in 2005, Jazeera Airways carried 1.2 million passengers across its network last year.
On Wednesday, an aide to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Iraq had reached a $500m agreement with Kuwait to resolve a standoff over Gulf War-era debts that had prevented Iraqi Airways from flying to destinations in the West.
Under the deal, Iraq will pay Kuwait $300m in cash and will invest another $200m in a joint Iraqi-Kuwaiti airline venture, Maliki's media adviser Ali al-Moussawi told Reuters.
In return, Kuwait would lift legal actions against Iraqi Airways, he said. In 2010 Kuwait's lawyers tried to seize an Iraqi Airways plane on its first flight to London more than 20 years.
The issue of Iraqi Airways debts is one part of a long-running dispute between Iraq and Kuwait over billions of dollars of reparations dating back to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990-91.
Saddam's forces seized aircraft and parts during their occupation of Kuwait, before they were driven out in the US-led Gulf War.