Under the terms of the estimated $400 million

preliminary agreement signed in late June, Voronezh will supply the new aircraft and

may set up a maintenance centre in the country, to provide technical support for the aircraft, to be operated by SyrianAir.

‘Negotiations are still at a preliminary stage,’ says an Ilyushin representative. ‘We hope to conclude an agreement in October. Currently, we are negotiating with SyrianAir over whether it will construct a new maintenance centre or Voronezh details are yet to be finalised.’

SyrianAir is seeking to replace its ageing fleet of 727s and 747SPs from The Boeing Company of the US. In 2005, Damascus launched a tender for the acquisition of new aircraft. However, existing US sanctions on the country prevented Boeing from bidding for the contract. Toulouse-based Airbus put together an offer for A321s, A330s and A340-300s, but sanctions prevented it from participating in the tender due to the level of US content in its aircraft.

Damascus has therefore concentrated its efforts on Russia, with Transport Minister Yarob Badr visiting Moscow in late June to oversee the terms of the agreement.

Ilyushin Finance was set up in 1999 and its principal business is the financing and operational leasing of Russian-made commercial aircraft.