Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, told Tel Aviv radio 102 FM that he is hopeful about Saudi permission to Air India to begin direct flights to Israel.
"There is apparently progress on the matter of flights to and from Israel and India over Saudi Arabia," the minister added.
The statement comes after on Wednesday, a spokesman for Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation denied the reports that the agency had given Air India approval to operate direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv.
The only currently operating rival to Air India is Israeli El Al, which flies an 8-hour route to Mumbai via southern Yemen. A direct route from New Dehli to Tel Aviv would reduce the flight duration by two and a half hours compared to the current route, as well as cut fuel costs and make tickets more affordable.
The Air India will get a 750,000 euro grant for launching a new route, according to Israel’s Tourism Ministry, which pursues the policy of intensifying flights to Israel.
The lifting of the 70-year-old airspace ban would signify a new era in Saudi-Israeli ties and the rapprochement between the countries which are both US close allies sharing concern over Iranian influence in the Middle East.