Saudi Arabia lifts Israel flights ban

·1-min read

Saudi Arabia has opened its airspace to "all air carriers", signalling the end of its longstanding ban on Israeli flights over its territory - a key step toward normalisation between the two nations.

In a statement posted to Twitter hours before President Joe Biden is set to become the first US leader to fly directly from Israel to the kingdom, Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation said it was announcing "the decision to open the Kingdom's airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the Authority for overflying".

The announcement is an incremental step toward the normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and builds on the strong but informal ties the erstwhile foes have developed over their shared concerns about Iran's growing influence in the region.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has allowed flights between Israel and Gulf states to cross through its airspace.

In 2020, then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and last week several Israeli defence reporters visited the kingdom and published news reports about their welcome.

"This decision paves the way for a more integrated, stable, and secure Middle East region, which is vital for the security and prosperity of the United States and the American people, and for the security and prosperity of Israel," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

- with reporting from Reuters

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