March 7, 2018 / 2:53 PM / 5 months ago

Saudi allows Air India to operate flights between India and Israel over Saudi airspace

NEW DELHI, March 7 (Reuters) - Air India has been allowed to operate flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv over Saudi Arabian airspace, the national airline's spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday, ending a 70-year ban and marking a dramatic diplomatic shift.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and lifting the 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.

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, but there was no confirmation from either Saudi Arabia or Air India.

Air India plans to operate flights three days a week, and the flight would save two hours of travel time as a result of flying over the Saudi airspace, an Air India spokesman said.

Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan Editing by Catherine Evans

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