Saudi Arabia gives the green light for flights between Israel and the UAE to cross airspace
- The kingdom’s aviation authority said the grant had been requested by the UAE
- Last month’s historic agreement normalized ties between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi
- All flights to and from the UAE can use Saudi airspace, the state news agency reported, citing the aviation authority, without mentioning Israel
- The Saudi Foreign Minister shortly after the announcement said the kingdom’s position in support of a Palestinian state as the capital had not changed
Saudi Arabia announced today that flights to and from the United Arab Emirates ‘from all countries’ will now be able to use its airspace – a statement apparently allowing flyovers through Israel following a deal to normalize relations between the UAE and Israel.
The vaguely worded statement avoided direct mention of Israel.
However, the announcement came just days after the kingdom allowed the first direct Israeli commercial passenger flight to use its airspace to reach the UAE.
Any direct flight between the two countries would have to use Saudi airspace to be commercially viable.
The statement makes no mention of the kingdom’s rival, Iran, nor Qatar, who are currently boycotting Saudi Arabia. Flights between those countries to the UAE should, in theory, not use the kingdom’s airspace.
The plane of the Israeli flag carrier El Al with Israeli and US delegates is seen after landing at Abu Dhabi International Airport, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The official Saudi news agency said the move comes in response to a ‘request from the UAE’ to open routes to and from the country.
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan wrote on Twitter that the “ firm and established position of the kingdom on the Palestinian cause and people will not change. ” But even he didn’t mention Israel directly in his tweet.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the announcement in an online video, indicating his country was directly involved.
“For years I have worked to open the air between Israel and the East,” he said, praising the “great breakthrough” that Israeli planes can now fly cheaply and quickly from Israel to the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi. city of Dubai. Avoiding Saudi airspace would mean a flight of more than seven hours.
Earlier this week, Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to the US President, flew with a high-level Israeli delegation to the UAE for the first direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries, a Star of David on the jets. tail.
The flight traversed Saudi Arabia’s airspace, which was at least a sign of agreement with the breakthrough of the United Arab Emirates’ US-brokered agreement to normalize relations with Israel.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud (pictured in Berlin in August) said shortly after the airspace report that the kingdom’s position in support of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital had not changed.
The Saudi announcement comes as Kushner travels the Middle East to build on the momentum of the UAE deal and pressurize other Arab countries to form formal ties with Israel even before settling conflict with the Palestinians – long considered a requirement for standardization.
After leaving Abu Dhabi, he left for Saudi Arabia to discuss “prospects for peace” in the region with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has expressed his willingness to engage with Israel.
The kingdom is close to the UAE and sees Iran, along with other pro-Western Arab governments, as a major threat.
While Iran’s shared enmity has largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians, Israel remains unpopular in much of the Arab world.
The UAE has promoted the deal as a tool to force Israel to abandon its controversial plan to annex parts of the West Bank that the Palestinians are seeking for their future state. Saudi Arabia welcomed the UAE’s decision but cautiously stressed that it would only open ties with Israel on the condition that peace is achieved with the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have fiercely opposed normalization for taking away one of their few benefits in dying peace talks with Israel.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt, one of two other Arab states with full diplomatic ties with Israel, reiterated his country’s support for the UAE-Israel agreement.
In a telephone conversation with Netanyahu, el-Sissi said Egypt supports “all steps” that will allow for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and “provide security to Israel,” the Egyptian leader’s office said.