For the first time in nearly 20 years a commercial airliner has flown from Western Europe into the to Iraqi capital Baghdad.
The private French carrier Aigle Azur’s inaugural flight carried French government officials and business people. Twice weekly flights are due to start in January.
France’s Foreign Trade Minister Anne-Marie Idrac told euronews direct flights are a big step in getting investment to Iraq: “We’d like to see flights going to Iraq from Paris as Paris is a major European hub. It is much more convenient to depart from Paris rather than from airports in Turkey, Jordan or from Gulf, which is what you have to do at the moment.”
Some of those on the flight were in Baghdad for a 10-day international trade fair.
More than 300 companies are taking part from every sector except defence.
At the fair EADS’s Eurocopter signed an agreement to supply Iraq’s agriculture ministry with crop spraying helicopters to treat date palm trees.
Olivier Lambert, Eurocopter’s Senior Vice President Sales, explained: “We have signed a contract for helicopters for agricultural use: seven Squirrel helicopters that we are going to deliver very quickly.”
France is particularly keen to rebuild the strong economic ties it had with Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
Currently French business accounts for just one percent of foreign investment there.
France doubled its exports to Iraq in 2009 to 413 million euros, but the figure is low given the estimated 400 billion euro cost of the country’s reconstruction.