Saudi Arabia expected to grant access to Israeli air travel, says report

A file photo of a flight.

Saudi Arabia will soon allow unfettered overflight to Israeli airlines and permit direct charter flights from Israel for Muslims participating in the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Reuters reported quoting US officials.

Quoting the official, the report said the announcement is expected to come during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia later this week. Biden has made it a focus to integrate Israel into the broader Gulf region, particularly with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia did begin allowing Israeli airlines to fly over its territory in a special air corridor for flights to and from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, after the signing of the Abraham Accords that normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and those two nations, the report said.

But Israel has yet to receive such access to flights to and from Asia, including China and India.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid was asked on Thursday at a joint news conference with Biden whether Saudi Arabia would approve the use of the air space, he said that it was Biden’s announcement to make. Biden replied, “I’m optimistic.”

Uri Sirkis, CEO of Israir, told Tel Aviv radio station 103FM on the prospective expansion of the Saudi corridor: “The eastbound route will be shortened by two hours on average. It will be a new era that will bring Asia closer to Israel.”

Israel’s regional cooperation minister last week asked Saudi Arabia to admit direct flights from Tel Aviv for Muslim pilgrims, a minority in Israel.

Saudi Arabia is expected to grant the request, the report quoting the US official further saying.

Currently, Saudi Arabia accepts Muslim pilgrims arriving from Israel to Mecca but requires them to travel through a third country, the report said terming it a costly diversion.


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