Saudi Arabia announced Friday it was lifting restrictions on “all carriers” using its airspace, an apparent gesture of openness towards Israel ahead of US President Joe Biden’s arrival.
The civil aviation authority “announces the decision to open the Kingdom’s airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the authority for overflying”, it said in a statement on Twitter.
The United States has hinted in recent weeks that more Arab nations could take steps to improve ties with Israel.
All eyes have been on Saudi Arabia, where Biden will travel Friday afternoon despite a previous vow to treat the kingdom as a “pariah” over the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden, who began his regional tour in Israel Wednesday, is to travel directly from the Jewish state to Saudi Arabia — becoming the first US president to fly from there to an Arab nation that does not recognise it.
In 2017, his predecessor, Donald Trump, made the journey in reverse.
Riyadh has repeatedly said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing official ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.
But the kingdom did not show any opposition when its regional ally, the United Arab Emirates, established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020, followed by Bahrain and Morocco under the US-brokered Abraham Accords.
Shortly after the Abraham Accords were announced, Saudi Arabia allowed an Israeli aircraft to pass over en route to Abu Dhabi and announced that UAE flights to “all countries” could overfly the kingdom.
Friday’s announcement effectively lifts overflight restrictions on aircraft travelling to and from Israel.
The civil aviation authority said the decision was made “to complement the Kingdom’s efforts aimed at consolidating the Kingdom’s position as a global hub connecting three continents”.