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.


KSA to set up first special economic zone in Riyadh

A royal decree has been issued to approve the regulation of the “Integrated Logistics Bonded Zone (ILBZ)”. (Shutterstock)
Updated 22 October 2018
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KSA to set up first special economic zone in Riyadh

  • A royal decree has been issued to approve the regulation of the “Integrated Logistics Bonded Zone (ILBZ)”

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia announced the establishment of a special economic zone (SEZ) on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The zone, the first of its kind in the world, will be developed in Riyadh.
It will focus on integrated logistics and will enjoy special rules and regulations aiming at attracting more multinational companies to the Kingdom.
A royal decree has been issued to approve the regulation of the “Integrated Logistics Bonded Zone (ILBZ)” and has assigned its establishment and operation to the General Authority for Civil Aviation as the zone governing body. ILBZ is a major step in translating Vision 2030 into action by leveraging Saudi Arabia’s strategic location as the hub connecting three continents, one of three core pillars of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 announced in 2016.