The move comes in response to a “request by the UAE” for flights to and from the country, including those from Israel.
Saudi Arabia has announced that it will now allow flights “from all countries” to cross its skies to reach the United Arab Emirates, a historic first that comes just days after the kingdom let the first direct Israeli commercial passenger flight use its airspace to reach the UAE.
The statement makes no mention of the kingdom’s rival, Iran, nor Qatar, which Saudi Arabia is currently boycotting. It is apparently a reference to the start of commercial flights from Israel to the UAE, as any direct flight between the two nations would need to use Saudi airspace to be commercially viable.
The Saudi Press Agency said the move comes in response to a “request by the UAE” for flights to and from the country.
Netanyahu discusses route
Shortly after the Saudi statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli planes and flights from all other countries can fly directly from Israel to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He made no mention of Saudi Arabia but a direct flight from Israel involves crossing Saudi skies.
“This will reduce the cost of flights, it will shorten the time, this will greatly develop tourism, it will develop our economy,” Netanyahu said in a video statement released by his office.
“These are the fruits of real peace,” he added.
In his video message, Netanyahu traced the future flight route on a map to indicate that Israeli planes would overfly Saudi territory.
פריצת דרך אדירה: אישרנו שמטוסים ישראלים ומטוסים של כל המדינות יוכלו לטוס ישירות מישראל לאבו-דאבי, לדובאי ובחזרה.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) September 2, 2020
זה יוזיל את הטיסות, זה יקצר את הזמן, זה יפתח תיירות אדירה ואת הכלכלה שלנו. pic.twitter.com/UkIPVPs7ws
Earlier this week, Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, flew with a high-level Israeli delegation to the UAE on the first direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries, a Star of David emblazoned on the jet’s tail. The flight traversed Saudi airspace, signalling at least acquiescence for a breakthrough US-brokered deal by the United Arab Emirates to normalise relations with Israel.
The Saudi announcement comes as Kushner is travelling the Middle East to build on the momentum of the UAE deal and press other Arab countries to establish formal ties with Israel. After leaving Abu Dhabi, he headed to Saudi Arabia, where he discussed “prospects for peace” in the region with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The kingdom is close to the UAE, and, along with other pro-Western Arab governments, shares Israel’s enmity toward Iran.
President Abdel Fattah el Sisi of Egypt, one of two other Arab states to have full formal diplomatic ties with Israel, reiterated his country’s support for the agreement between Israel and the UAE. In a phone call with Netanyahu, Sisi said Egypt supports “any steps” that allow for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and “provide security to Israel,” according to the Egyptian leader’s office.