06:25 GMT +324 February 2019
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    Israeli Minister Hopes Saudis to Allow Flights to Tel Aviv Through Its Airspace

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    Saudi Arabia and Israel have no diplomatic relations, though reports on covert ties between the two nations have been circulating in the media. The prospective Saudi permission to use its airspace to cross into Israel could open the new chapter in Sadi-Israeli relations.

    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.

    READ MORE: Saudi FM Reveals Riyadh Has 'Roadmap' for 'Normal' Ties With Israel

    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.

    According to the Jerusalem Post, however, an Air India spokesman and Israel’s Airports Authority said that the carrier requested slots for three weekly flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv, with the airport stating that the service is due to begin in March.

    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.

    READ MORE: Saudis Reportedly Interested in Bolstering Defense With Israel's Iron Dome

    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.


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