Riyadh seeking flights between Saudi, Iranian Shia cities

Saudi Arabia is seeking direct flights between its Shia-majority city of Dammam and Iran’s Mashhad as part of efforts to improve relations between the two countries, according to an aviation industry official in Iran.
Maqsud As’adi, who leads the Association of Iranian Airlines, said on Monday that launching flights to Iran’s second-largest city of Mashhad, located in the northeast of the country and home to a major Shia shrine, is a priority for Saudi Arabia, Press TV wrote.
As’adi said the flight route could serve Saudi Arabia’s Shia community, which is based in the eastern city of Dammam.
He said the route could also lead to increased tourism visits by Saudis to other Iranian cities, especially to natural resorts in northern Iran.
The remarks come weeks after Iran’s Ministry of Roads and Urban Development said it had received an official request from Saudi Arabian authorities for three regular flights between the two countries.
The ministry said last month that the flights will be launched regardless of arrangements existing between Tehran and Riyadh about flights carrying Iranian pilgrims to the hajj ceremony in Saudi Arabia.
The announcement came amid a joint plan by Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore their diplomatic relations some seven years after the two countries cut their official ties.
The plan is based on an agreement brokered by China in early March which stipulated that the two Muslim countries should reopen their embassies by May 9.

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