After 70 Years, Saudi Arabia Grants India Airspace Approval For Flights To Israel

| February 8 , 2018 , 13:40 IST

Lifting a 70-year-old ban, Saudi Arabia has granted permission to Air India flights headed to Israel to use its airspace, thereby shortening flights from New Delhi to Tel Aviv by 2.5 hours and saving considerable fuel due to which tickets would also get cheaper. The decision of the Saudi government would be implemented in March, reported Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday.

Previously, flights to Israel would have to make a stop-over in the Amman airport in Jordan first instead of directly flying over Saudi Arabia, although private jets would often fly from Saudi and other Gulf airports to Israel.  

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The move is being considered as a testament to the influence of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the region, ahead of his visit to the West Bank area on February 10 which is under Israeli-Palestinian control. In a boost to Indian-Israeli ties, last year PM Modi became the first Indian premier to make an official state visit to Israel, and later welcomed Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to India.

The decision also signifies an improvement in ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which has been credited to the changes in Saudi domestic and foreign policy led by the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"The political changes in Saudi Arabia and the desire to consolidate power is the main reason why these relations with Israel were opened," Mahjoob Zweiri, an associate professor with the Gulf Studies Program department at Qatar University, said to Al Jazeera.