The Saudi civil aviation authority has “announces the decision to open the Kingdom’s airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the authority for overflying”.
A statement on Twitter by the Aviation Authority, said decision was made to complement efforts aimed at consolidating the Kingdom’s position as a global hub connecting three continents.
Welcoming the development, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said, “This decision is the result of the President’s persistent and principled diplomacy with Saudi Arabia over many months, culminating in his visit today”, adding that Biden “commends” it.
He said President Biden, who will land in Saudi Arabia for a visit later Friday as part of a trip to the Middle East, “will have more to say on this breakthrough later today.”
Prior to Biden’s arrival in Israel at the start of his Middle East trip on Wednesday, Washington had hinted that more Arab nations could take steps to pursue relations with Israel, spurring speculation about whether Riyadh would alter its long-held position of not establishing official bilateral ties until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.
The kingdom did not show any opposition when its regional ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020, followed by Bahrain and Morocco under the US-brokered Abraham Accords.
Yet analysts have stressed that any immediate gains are likely to be incremental and that Riyadh will probably not agree to formal ties, not during Biden’s visit or while King Salman, 86, still reigns.
Friday’s announcement effectively lifts overflight restrictions on aircraft travelling to and from Israel.
Israel has been pushing for the overflight rights to shorten links to destinations in Asia. Her authorities also want Muslim pilgrims from Israel to be able to travel directly to Saudi Arabia. Currently they are required to make costly stopovers in third countries.