Israeli national carrier El Al’s plane flew through Saudi Arabian airspace for the first time, carrying US and Israeli delegations. The move is seen as a sign of the improving diplomatic relations in the region.
The historic flight LY971 travelled over the kingdom to Abu Dhabi on Monday after the countries last month agreed to establish ties. Following a deal brokered by the United States, talks focusing on economic issues are due to start this week.
Top aides to US president Donald Trump and Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu were on board the direct flight from Tel Aviv to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.
When operating, El Al’s planes have had to run a dogleg route to Mumbai, for example, down the Red Sea and up the Gulf of Aden to avoid Saudi airspace. That adds two hours to the trip from Tel Aviv and puts El Al at a disadvantage to Air India, which can fly the route direct.
On Saturday, the UAE announced it was scrapping its economic boycott against Israel. Officials from the two countries have said they are looking at cooperation in defence, medicine, agriculture, tourism and technology.