Saudi Arabia permits Air India flights to Israel use its airspace

In Historic First, Saudi Arabia Allows Flights to Israel Over Its Airspace

In Historic First, Saudi Arabia Allows Flights to Israel Over Its Airspace

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday granted Air India permission to use its airspace for the journey from New Delhi to Israel's Capital Tel Aviv, Haaretz reported, citing sources in the Israeli flight industry.

Air India recently asked Israel's Airports Authority for slots for departing flights, starting March 20. For seventy years, the kingdom's airspace had been closed not only to Israeli aircraft, but to carriers with flight routes to and from Israel. Flying over Saudi Arabia would reduce travel time by two hours.

Air India was awaiting clearance from the Indian aviation regulator to fly over Saudi Arabia, the spokesman said.

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This is welcome news and was the result of the recent visit by the Israeli PM to India.

It is also a sign of India's seemingly nimble diplomacy in the region-of building ties with Israel on one hand and its Gulf Arab neighbours on the other as New Delhi tries to forge closer ties with Shia-majority Iran through infrastructure projects like the Chabahar port.

India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, became the first Indian prime minister to ever visit Israel previous year in a show of the burgeoning relationship between the two countries.

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Due to route overflying issues Air India was earlier also examining the possibility of operating flights from Mumbai to Tel Aviv. Speaking at an economic forum in Mumbai, Netanyahu said the goal was for a "efficient and direct route" to be established between the countries.

Israel's tourism ministry has announced a one-time grant of 750,000 euros to Air India for flight operations. It has banned Israel from entering its airspace for the past 70 years. Last year, he became the first Indian prime minister to go to Israel on an official state visit. Israel has also opened a tourism office in India which has been organising several promotional events not only to bring in tourists but also to lure Bollywood producers to shoot their films here.

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