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Olive branch: Saudi Arabia opens airspace to Israeli airlines

In a major move towards normalization of relations, Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that Israeli airlines can use its airspace en route to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Until now, Israeli airlines did not have permanent approval for direct flights to traverse Saudi airspace. Reportedly, the change was made following a visit to Saudi Arabia by White House senior officials Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz.

The important gesture came after talks between Saudi officials and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, news agency Reuters and Israeli media outlets have reported.

Kushner and Middle East envoys Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook raised the issue shortly after they arrived in Saudi Arabia for talks. “We were able to reconcile the issue,” an official from the administration of United States President Donald Trump told Reuters on Monday.

Kushner and his team were to meet the emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the emir of Kuwait later this week.

One goal of the trip is to try to persuade Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to end a three-year blockade of Qatar.

Qatar has been under an air, land and sea blockade imposed by GCC members Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, and non-GCC member Egypt, since June 2017.

Israir Airlines is scheduled to conduct the first such flight to Dubai on Tuesday.

Monday’s announcement concerning airlines and Saudi Arabia is the result of the U.S.-brokered normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The Trump administration has secured several historic normalization and peace pacts between Israel and Arab nations. Saudi Arabia is considered to be strongly moving in that direction and some observers say that it may come sooner than later.

–Dwight Widaman and JNS