Saudi Arabia approves airspace for flights to Israel

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has granted permission for Air India flights headed to Israel to use its airspace for the first time, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

The policy, which will be implemented next month, means that flights from New Delhi to Tel Aviv would be shortened by two and a half hours.

The new route, Haaretz reports, means that the airline would reduce fuel costs and sell cheaper tickets to passengers.

The Saudi government had previously banned flights headed to Israel from using its airspace for 70 years.

While it is no secret that private jets can fly from Saudi and other Gulf airports to Israel, they could not use the direct route and had to make a stop-over in Amman airport first.

The decision is widely seen as an acknowledgement of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s influence in the region, who visited the occupied West Bank on Saturday 10 February.

Last year, he became the first Indian premier to go to Israel on an official state visit.

But the policy also signifies the normalisation of diplomatic and economic ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, who have been linked to having increasingly covert relations over the last year.

This has been credited to the shakeup of Saudi domestic and foreign policy, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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