Saudi Arabia opens airspace to commercial flight to Israel

Saudi Arabia has opened it airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel with the inauguration of an Air India route between New Delhi and Tel Aviv.

The move is further proof of a rapprochement between Riyadh and Tel Aviv after several meetings between senior Israeli and Saudi figures recently.

The diplomatic shift is fuelled by shared concern over Iranian influence in the region.

“This is a really historic day that follows two years of very, very intensive work,” Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin said.

Saudi Arabia still does not recognise Israel due to the sensitivity of doing so in the Arab and Muslim world. And Riyadh has not formally confirmed granting the Air India plane overflight rights.

The Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner entered Saudi airspace at around 16.45GMT on Wednesday and overflew the kingdom at 40,000ft for about three hours.

It came within 37 miles of the capital Riyadh, according to the Flightradar monitoring app. It then crossed over Jordan and the occupied West Bank into Israel.

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The airliner had earlier flown over Oman, according to Flightradar. Officials from Oman, which also does not recognise Israel, could not be reached for comment.

Interviewed on Israel’s Army Radio, Mr Levin voiced confidence that El Al would eventually be allowed to use Saudi airspace.

“You know, they said the Saudis wouldn’t let any flight pass. So here, the Saudis are permitting it. It is a process, I think. Ultimately this [El Al overflights] will happen too,” he said.

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