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Saudi Arabia officially allows all UAE-Israel flights through its airspace

Netanyahu says direct flights to UAE will boost Israel's economy and tourism following announcement from Riyadh
Trump's adviser Jared Kushner (C-L) and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien (C-R) disembark from El Al's airliner on 31 August in the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE (AFP)

Saudi Arabia will allow flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to cross its airspace, a move hailed as a “tremendous breakthrough” by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The Saudi state news agency reported on Wednesday that all flights to and from the UAE will be permitted to use Saudi airspace, according to the aviation authority. 

Earlier this week, Israel's El Al flew through Saudi airspace carrying US and Israeli delegations from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, the first official flight by an Israeli carrier over the kingdom. The return flight also used Saudi airspace.

The decision, which the kingdom's aviation authority said came at the request of the UAE, follows a controversial agreement last month between Abu Dhabi and Israel to normalise ties. 

Saudi Arabia had previously banned flights to and from Israel from using its airspace, though since 2018 it has permitted Air India to fly over the country to Tel Aviv, which was seen at the time as a sign of secret improvement of ties between the Gulf kingdom and Israel. 

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Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud tweeted shortly after the report that his government’s position in support of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital had not changed. 

“The Kingdom's firm and established positions towards the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people will not change by allowing the passage through the Kingdom's airspace for flights coming to and departing from the United Arab Emirates to all countries, and the Kingdom appreciates all efforts aimed at achieving a just and lasting peace in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative,” he wrote. 

Boost for Israeli economy

Later on Wednesday, Netanyahu said that the ability of Israeli planes to fly directly to the UAE is “another tremendous breakthrough”.

He said Monday’s first commercial flight between the two countries will not be the last. 

"Flights will be cheaper and shorter, and it will lead to robust tourism and develop our economy," he said in a statement. 

Netanyahu said last month that he was "working with maximum energy, and we have already begun to work on opening an air route over Saudi Arabia, which will simply shorten flights between Israel and the UAE."

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