EU lifts sanctions on Syrian airline Cham Wings

By Kinda Makieh

DAMASCUS (Reuters) -The European Union has lifted sanctions on Syrian airline Cham Wings, representatives for the EU and the airline said on Wednesday, after the privately owned company was blacklisted over accusations it was helping smuggle migrants into the bloc.

The EU imposed the sanctions in December, accusing it of flying people to Belarus so they could then illegally cross the EU's external borders in what flared up into a migration and humanitarian crisis.

The airline had already been blacklisted by the United States, who said the Syrian government had used the airline to transport militants, weapons, and other equipment during the conflict raging in the country since 2011.

The EU decision to remove it from the sanctions list was signed on July 18 by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, according to a statement by an EU spokesperson.

"The Council took the decision to delist Cham Wings, as it considered that the restrictive measures brought the desired effect with regards to this entity. According to information presented to the Council, Cham Wings ceased its involvement in the activities for which it was listed," the spokesperson said.

The airline, which currently operates with three aircraft to destinations mostly in the Middle East, welcomed the de-listing.

Its business development and public relations director Osama Satea said on Wednesday the airline had objected to the EU's original blacklisting and said the reversal was "a glimmer of hope".

It showed Cham Wings was "entirely innocent", but would not immediately lead to flights to Europe, Satea told Reuters.

"This will allow us to request permission to operate in some airports. It'll be better and easier after our name was struck off the (sanctions) list," he said.

(Reporting by Kinda Makieh; Additional reporting and Writing by Maya Gebeily; Editing by Alison Williams)