Saudi Arabia opens airspace to Israeli flights

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In a statement shared hours before he was scheduled to fly direct from Israel to Saudi Arabia, Biden praised the kingdom’s decision, saying it “could help give impetus to Israel’s further integration into the world.” region”.

The Biden administration has spent months trying to formalize security and economic agreements between Saudi Arabia and Israel, trying to pave the way for a normalization deal between the two countries.

Riyadh is believed to have a secret relationship with Israel, but those diplomatic ties have yet to be officially disclosed. In 2020, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia for a secret meeting with the de facto leader of the kingdom, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — a claim denied by Riyadh’s top diplomat.

A possible normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia has been hailed as the “crown jewel” of agreements between the Jewish state and the Arab world. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan normalized relations with Israel in 2020 as part of a wave of agreements at the end of former President Donald Trump’s term.

The kingdom’s decision marks the first time it has allowed Israeli airlines unrestricted use of its airspace to fly to and from the country. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has only allowed Israeli airlines to fly from Tel Aviv to the UAE and Bahrain through its airspace.

Saudi’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said in a statement Thursday that it had decided to open its airspace to all airlines “that meet the requirements of the Overflight Authority”. It added that the country is committed to “compliance with its obligations under the 1944 Chicago Convention, which provides for non-discrimination between civilian aircraft used in international aviation.”

After Saudi Arabia’s decision, Biden pledged to do everything “through direct diplomacy and leader-to-leader engagement, to continue advancing this groundbreaking process.”

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the Saudi announcement, which he described as the result of a “long road of intense and secretive diplomacy with Saudi Arabia and the United States”. He said the decision was “just the first step” and promised more would come in the way of improved relations.

Lapid also thanked Biden and wished him success at his summit in Jeddah on Saturday.

The US president will meet with King Salman and the Crown Prince on Friday evening.



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