A Syrian commercial jet arrived in Yerevan from Damascus on Wednesday, marking the official resumption of regular flights between Armenia and Syria that were halted four years ago.
The plane belonging to Cham Wings Airlines, a private Syrian carrier, landed at the Zvartnots international airport with more than 100 passengers, most of them Syrians of Armenian descent, on board. Armenian officials and Syria’s ambassador in Yerevan attended a welcoming ceremony held there on the occasion.
Cham Wings is due to carry out weekly flights between the Syrian and Armenian capitals at least until the end of this summer. There are no plans yet to restore commercial flights between Yerevan and Aleppo, Syria’s former largest city ravaged by the continuing civil war in the Arab state.
An Aleppo-Yerevan flight service was operated by Syria’s and Armenia’s national airlines until the end of 2012. It was discontinued when heavy fighting between Syrian government troops and rebel forces reached the city and its airport. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime regained full control over Aleppo late last year.
Syria was home to an estimated 80,000 ethnic Armenians before the outbreak of the bloody conflict in 2011. Most of them lived in Aleppo. Only several thousand Syrian Armenians are thought to remain there now.
Aleppo Armenians were among the Cham Wings passengers that arrived in Yerevan. “We hope to take some rest and forget our sorrows here in Yerevan,” one of them, Suzan Gabrielian, told reporters at Zvartnots.
Gabrielian and her family, who have relatives in Armenia, are visiting their ancestral homeland for the first time. “We hope that Armenians will return to Aleppo,” she said. “True, our motherland is here, but our birthplace is there.”
Another Armenian woman from Aleppo, Nora Abusefian, was also “very happy” with renewed flights to Armenia.“We haven’t seen each other for more than three and a half years,” she said, hugging her Yerevan-based sister.