Saudi skies now open to flights to Israel

An Air India aircraft seen parked on the tarmac at Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi India

Air India denies 'any confirmation' for flights to Israel using Saudi Airspace

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and lifting the airspace ban for El Al would offer further evidence of what appears to be thawing of ties.

India's state-run carrier Wednesday confirmed the launch of flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv later this month which are expected to use Saudi airspace.

Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official diplomatic ties, like much of the Arab world.

But the historic animosity has given way to cautious, if often denied, cooperation based on a shared enmity towards Iran.

Air India will operate a Boeing 787 aircraft on the route which will be covered in 7 hours and 10 minutes, an airline spokesperson said.

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Israel's national carrier El Al now operates an India service that takes a detour over the Red Sea to avoid flying over Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Confirming weeks of speculation, the prime minister added that the flight would now take as long as the journey from Tel Aviv to London.

Air India has not published when it would begin its flights to Tel Aviv, with media speculating they were due to start later in March.

The Israeli flag carrier's CEO Gonen Usishkin said in a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a United Nations body, it would be discriminatory for the Saudis to allow Air India to enter its airspace and not El Al.

El Al recently reached out to the International Civil Aviation Authority seeking its support in gaining permission to fly over Saudi airspace.

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But under Narendra Modi economic ties have flourished and past year he made a first-ever visit to Israel by an Indian prime minister.

However, following Netanyahu's statement, Air India declared it was still waiting for formal permission.

- Correction: An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect title for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Saudi and Israeli aviation authorities did not respond to requests for comment.

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