Syria hails Aleppo airport reopening as a victory over rebels
BEIRUT - Reuters
Media members gather around a plane after it landed at Aleppo international airport January 22, 2014. REUTERS PhotoSyria hailed the reopening of Aleppo international airport on Wednesday after a year's closure as a military victory over rebels, on the opening day of peace talks in Switzerland aimed at ending the civil war.
Syrian state television reported that a passenger flight carrying a media delegation from Damascus, 300 km (200 miles) to the south, landed at 10:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m. GMT) in Aleppo, formerly Syria's commercial hub and its most populous city.
A reporter for the government outlet said the flight was made possible by the army's control of the entire area around the airport, which he said had been achieved over the past week. Aleppo's airport was closed last year due to clashes and shelling but military aircraft continued to use it.
"The takeoff and landing of this plane was very successful," he said from the airport's landing strip. "This shows that the forces of the Syrian Arab Army - even as military operations continue in Aleppo and its suburbs - have extended their full control over the area surrounding Aleppo international airport."
The director of the airport said takeoff and landing required a five kilometre (3 mile) area around the airport to be secured. He said that the plane did not encounter gunfire or any other hostile action during the 55 minute flight.
Rebels have held roughly half of Aleppo since storming into the city in mid-2012, holding off a government counter-offensive and consolidating their control over rural areas and the northern border with Turkey.