President Joe Biden welcomed Saudi Arabia opening up its airspace to allow Israeli airlines and suggested the move will “help build momentum” in improving relations between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia’s decision, which came just ahead of Biden’s trip to the country from Israel, is the first time in history that Israeli airlines will have free rein to travel between the two countries using Saudi’s airspace. As a result, Biden noted that he would be “the first president of the United States to fly from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.”
“Saudi Arabia’s historic decision to open its airspace for all civilian planes, including those flying to and from Israel, is an important step towards building a more integrated and stable Middle East region,” the president said Friday in a statement ahead of his travels. “While this opening has long been discussed, now, thanks to months of steady diplomacy between my administration and Saudi Arabia, it is finally a reality.”
“As we mark this important moment, Saudi Arabia’s decision can help build momentum toward Israel’s further integration into the region, including with Saudi Arabia. I will do all that I can, through direct diplomacy and leader-to-leader engagement, to keep advancing this groundbreaking process,” Biden added.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid also touted the decision, saying it was “a first step” towards normalizing relations, according to The Times of Israel. (RELATED: ‘No Apologies’: Biden Calls Out Anti-Israel Wing Of Democratic Party)
Meanwhile, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan suggested the deal marked the culmination of a months-long negotiation with Saudi Arabia by the Biden administration. The administration had been working behind the scenes to mediate a deal between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt regarding islands and airspace, Axios reported back in May.
Biden lands in Saudi Arabia on Friday and has meetings scheduled with King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.