Netanyahu: direct Israel-UAE flights will continue

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Jerusalem (AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Monday's historic first commercial flight of an Israeli aircraft direct to the United Arab Emirates across Saudi Arabia will not be the last.

"Now there is another tremendous breakthrough," he wrote in a statement shortly after Saudi Arabia said it would allow UAE flights to "all countries" to overfly the kingdom.

"Israeli planes and those from all countries will be able to fly directly from Israel to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and back," Netanyahu said, without giving any timeline.

"Flights will be cheaper and shorter, and it will lead to robust tourism and develop our economy," he said.

Monday's groundbreaking flight on an aircraft of Israeli national carrier El Al carried a US-Israeli delegation headed by White House adviser Jared Kushner.

The visit was aimed at charting the relationship between the Emirates and the Jewish state after their landmark deal to normalise relations.

Two weeks earlier, Netanyahu said that he was "working with maximum energy, and we have already begun to work on opening an air route over Saudi Arabia, which will simply shorten flights between Israel and the UAE."

In March 2018, Air India launched the first scheduled service to Israel allowed to cross Saudi airspace.

It was seen at the time as a sign of a behind-the-scenes improvement in ties between the Arab kingdom and the Jewish state.

During a May 2017 Middle East tour, US President Donald Trump flew from Riyadh to Tel Aviv on Air Force One, in a first known direct flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel.