Saudi Arabia on Friday opened its airspace to “all air carriers,” signaling the end of its longstanding ban on Israeli flights overflying its territory — a key step toward normalization between the two nations as President Joe Biden visits the region.
In a statement posted to Twitter hours before Biden is set to become the first U.S. 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 normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and builds on the strong but informal ties the erstwhile foes have developed recent years 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 defense reporters visited the kingdom and published news reports about their welcome.