Saudi to open airspace to India-Israel flights, says Netanyahu

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A spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority confirmed Air India had received permission to land at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, but could provide no further details.

Air India has been allowed by Saudi Arabia to fly over its territory on its new route from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said here on Tuesday.

Israel's Ministry of Tourism will approve a one-time grant of 750,000 euros to Air to launch the flight service, an official said in Jerusalem last month.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the announcement during a briefing Monday at Blair House in Washington DC.

"We have not received any confirmation".

Such an agreement would reduce India-Israel flight time by 2hrs.

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Air India has sought permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for thrice-a-week flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv.

"One report claimed the Saudi government is weighing the possible normalization of relations with Israel ahead of a planned Middle East peace program by the Trump administration which aims to not only secure a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but lead to recognition of the Jewish state by the larger Arab world", the Arutz Sheva report said.

Saudi Arabia officially does not recognize the existence of Israel, and all planes flying from Israel to India and returning, are banned from flying through Saudi Arabian airspace.

The prime minister, who visited India in January, acknowledged the agreement could hurt El Al.

At present, Israel's El Al flights between Tel Aviv and Mumbai take a seven-hour circuitous route and fly over the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and then enter India and avoid countries that are on the direct flight path such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But the decision also signifies warmer ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which have been seen as having increasingly covert relations over the past year.



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