Saudi civil aviation authority denies allowing Air India to fly over Saudi Arabia on planned Israel route

Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority denied granting permission to Indian planes to use the kingdom’s airspace to cross into Israel. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Saudi civil aviation authority denies allowing Air India to fly over Saudi Arabia on planned Israel route

JERUSALEM/NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority on Wednesday denied granting permission to Indian planes to use the kingdom’s airspace to cross into Israel.
A spokesman for the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia that the Authority did not grant any permission to fly India, Al Arabiya television reported.
Air India said on Wednesday it plans to begin direct flights to Israel and has proposed they pass through Saudi airspace, a route so far off-limits to Israel-bound commercial planes.
Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and lifting the 70-year-old airspace ban would reflect what appears to be thawing ties between Israel and the kingdom, both US allies with a shared concern over Iranian influence in the region.
An Air India spokesman and Israel’s Airports Authority said the state-run carrier had requested slots for three weekly flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. The Airports Authority said the service would begin in early March.
Air India was awaiting clearance from the Indian aviation regulator to fly over Saudi Arabia, the spokesman said.
However, Israeli media, in unsourced reports, said Riyadh had granted the necessary flyover rights, which would shorten the flight time from New Delhi by more than two hours.
India and Israel have built close ties over the years, largely centered on arms purchases, away from the public eye.
But under Narendra Modi, whose nationalist party has long admired Israel for its tough approach to terrorism, ties have flowered across the economy and last year he made a first-ever visit to Israel by an Indian prime minister.
And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited India last month, the first such trip in 15 years.
El Al Israel Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, flies four weekly flights to Mumbai but these take seven hours rather than five as they take a route south toward Ethiopia and then east to India, avoiding Saudi airspace.
Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it will grant Air India 750,000 euros for flying the new route, as part of its policy of increasing the number of airlines flying to Israel.
Air India had made a similar request for slots to Israeli authorities last year but never followed through, after that circumventing Saudi airspace was not economically viable.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is in Riyadh for an official visit.


Saudi efforts to ‘heal Afghan division’ win royal approval

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session in Jeddah on Tuesday. SPA
Updated 11 min 42 sec ago
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Saudi efforts to ‘heal Afghan division’ win royal approval

  • The forum urged all Afghan factions to halt the fighting and work toward “reconciliation between brothers
  • China’s Belt and Road initiative will link the interests of China and Arab countries

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has expressed his appreciation to scholars who took part in the International Ulema Conference on Peace and Security in Afghanistan in Makkah, saying the Kingdom was making efforts to “heal the divisions and differences among the Afghan people.”

Chairing the Cabinet session at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Tuesday, the king said Saudi Arabia was working toward “unifying the ranks and words of Muslims worldwide.”
He briefed the Cabinet on the results of his recent talks with President Cyril Ramaphosa, of South Africa, on future cooperation between the two countries.
The Cabinet welcomed the final statement by the Makkah conference calling on states, organizations and Islamic elites to play positive roles in achieving security and peace in Afghanistan.
The forum urged all Afghan factions to halt the fighting and work toward “reconciliation between brothers, extinguishing the fire of sedition.”
Muslims worldwide should continue their “firm stand in front of the advocates of violence and extremism in defense of their religion and maintaining the unity of the Islamic world,” it said.
The Cabinet also reviewed a ministerial meeting of the Arab-Chinese Cooperation Forum in Beijing and welcomed a decision by Chinese leader President Xi Jinping to establish an Arab-Chinese strategic partnership.
China’s Belt and Road initiative will link the interests of China and Arab countries and “add to the prosperity and economic advancement of all,” it said.
The Cabinet denounced recent suicide attacks on two election gatherings in Pakistan and the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, and offered condolences to families of the victims.
In the local arena, the Cabinet extended its appreciation to the king, based on a report by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for pardoning all troops who have taken part in the Saudi Renewal of Hope operation in Yemen of their military and disciplinary penalties for their heroism and sacrifices.
The Cabinet approved a license for the Iraqi Commercial Bank to open a branch in Saudi Arabia and authorized the Minister of Finance to decide on any subsequent requests to open other branches.