Saudi Arabia announced it will open its airspace to all airlines, allowing for more overflights to and from Israel, a move hailed by US President Joe Biden, who is scheduled to visit the country on Friday.
The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said that the country’s airspace is now accessible to all carriers that satisfy its conditions for overflights, in accordance with international treaties that state that civil aircraft should not be discriminated against.
GACA said in a statement that the decision would “complement the efforts aimed at consolidating the kingdom’s position as a global hub connecting three continents and to enhance international air connectivity,”
Bypassing Saudi Arabian airspace increased flight delays and fuel consumption on several routes to and from Israel.
US Vice President Joe Biden praised the move, calling it a vital step toward establishing a more connected and stable Middle East region.
“Today, I will be the first US president to travel from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. As we commemorate this momentous occasion, Saudi Arabia’s decision may assist generate momentum for Israel’s further integration into the region, particularly with Saudi Arabia “In a statement, Biden added.
Earlier on Thursday, a US source told Reuters that Saudi Arabia will soon provide Israeli airlines unrestricted overflight access and allow direct charter flights from Israel to Mecca for Muslims doing the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam, does not recognize Israel and has made no mention of potential bilateral advancements during Biden’s visit. Israel has similarly refrained from making such connections.
Despite the lack of formal links, Saudi Arabia agreed in 2020 to allow Israel-UAE planes to pass via its territory.