Israel’s regional cooperation minister said on Thursday that he had asked Saudi Arabia to admit direct flights from Tel Aviv for Muslim pilgrims, pointing to a possible new accommodation by Riyadh ahead of next week’s visit by U.S. President Joe Biden.
Israeli officials have also been seeking expanded permission for their airlines to fly over Saudi soil to Asian destinations.
Saudi Arabia, Islam’s birthplace, does not recognise Israel and has said nothing of possible bilateral developments during Biden’s visit. Israel has also shied from drawing such links.
But a person in Washington who was familiar with the matter said the new aviation deals sought by Israel could be announced around the time of Biden’s visit, but that details still needed to be worked out and may not be completed in time.
Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freij said Israel has been working to bring what he deemed as “under the counter” contacts between the countries – based mostly on commercial interests and shared worries about Iran – more into the open.