Moscow - Syrian Air is in talks with Irkut for an order of 15 to 20 Irkut MC-21 aircraft to mitigate the effect of western sanctions hurting its operations for more than two decades.

The state-owned airline is unable to acquire airplanes from the major aircraft manufacturers and lessors because of the sanctions targeting Bashar al-Assad government. The carrier currently operates six A320-200, one A340-300, and two ATR 72-500.

The flag-carrier of the country was so far unwilling to operate most Russian planes currently in service because of their controversial safety records and high operating costs.

But Talal Abdulkarim, the Chief Executive Officer of Syrian Air, thinks the next-generation narrow-body of Irkut may help the airline to renew its aging fleet and grow its network.

If the talks result in an agreement, the deliveries are expected to start in 2022, two years after the MC-21 makes its commercial debut.

Irkut plans to offer the MC-21 to the Syrian national airline by replacing Pratt & Whitney engines with Russian-made Aviadvigatel PD-14 turbofans to minimize western components used in the production.