Syria and Saudi Arabia resume regular commercial flights as part of a thaw in relations

DAMASCUS (AP) — Regular flights between the Syrian capital of Damascus and Saudi Arabia resumed Wednesday for the first time in more than a decade as part of a thaw in relations between the countries, Syrian state media reported.

Syria and Saudi Arabia had severed ties in 2012 over President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters at the start of the civil war. But most Arab countries have restored diplomatic ties with Damascus, which was readmitted to the 22-member Arab League l ast year.

Syria’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ayman Soussan, said the resumption of flights was “an additional step in the process of development in relations between the two brotherly countries,” state news agency SANA reported.

In May, Syrian pilgrims traveled on a direct flight to Saudi Arabia for the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage, but Wednesday’s Syrian Airlines flight to Riyadh marked the return of regular commercial flights.

Syria’s 13-year civil war is now largely frozen, with the central government in Damascus having reasserted control over most of the territory, while much of the northwest is still controlled by a patchwork of opposition groups and the northeast by Kurdish forces.

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