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.


Makkah workshop approves 27 initiatives to enhance religious moderation and tolerance

Updated 20 min 33 sec ago
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Makkah workshop approves 27 initiatives to enhance religious moderation and tolerance

  • Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal receives book on “Following the Steps of the Role Model”
  • Second workshop tackles use of technology in crowd control

JEDDAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal has inaugurated the “mithaq” initiative, the first of its kind to be held at the Holy Mosques, and received the book on “Following the Steps of the Role Model” from the General President of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais.

The initiative included three workshops: The first workshop, Creating Initiatives in Moderation and Tolerance, was managed and supervised by the Prince Faisal Center for Moderation. It attracted many scholars and academicians and approved 27 initiatives to enhance moderation and tolerance.

The second workshop was on using technology in crowd control — engineering solutions for better crowd flow and for enhancing security control.

The third workshop was about the media and the global mission of the Holy Mosques. It was attended by many media personalities and university professors, and was characterized by serious discussion before agreement on quality initiatives with tangible results.

During the Makkah cultural days, Prince Khaled inaugurated the pact of the role model, which represents a holistic commitment to quality service from leaders, employees, security personnel and everyone serving at the Holy Mosques. This pact is an interpretation of the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Khaled toured the exhibition and praised the efforts of each department in the service of the pilgrims and visitors of the Holy Mosques.

Al-Sudais held a conference about the impact of the Holy Mosques in enhancing the role model, presided over by Sheikh Saleh Al-Taleb, imam of the Holy Mosque. It was attended by Sheikh Saad Al-Shathri, adviser at the royal court, and Sheikh Hassan bin Abdul Hameed Bukhari.