Saudi gives Air India overflight rights for its Israel routes: Netanyahu

File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 06, 2018, 07.47 AM (IST)

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Saudi Arabia had granted Air India permission to fly over its territory on its new routes to and from Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu made the announcement during a briefing in Washington to Israeli reporters after he had met US President Donald Trump.

India's national carrier Air India is scheduled to begin its direct flight between New Delhi and Tel Aviv in few weeks from now.

Such a permission by Saudi Arabia would reduce the air travel time from New Delhi to Tel Aviv by Air India from about eight hours to five and a half hours, Netanyahu said.

Interacting with reporters after his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, Netanyahu said that Air India has signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia over the matter.

"Air India signed an agreement today to fly to Israel over Saudi Arabia," Netanyahu said.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and lifting the 70-year-old airspace ban would reflect what appears to be thawing ties between Israel and the kingdom, both U.S. allies with a shared concern over Iranian influence in the region.

Last month, Air India announced the planned thrice-weekly flights to Tel Aviv over Saudi soil, but the General Authority of Civil Aviation in Riyadh said at the time it had not granted such permission to the carrier.

El Al Israel Airlines, the country's flag carrier, flies four weekly flights to Mumbai. These take seven hours as they fly south toward Ethiopia and then east to India, avoiding Saudi airspace. Israel media have said that Saudi overflight routes could reduce travel time by more than two hours.

(With inputs from agencies)