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Oman opens airspace and joins Saudi corridor for Israeli carriers

Oman Air
Oman's Civil Aviation Authority confirms that the sultanate's airspace is open to all carriers that meet the requirements of overflying

Oman has said all airlines can overfly its territory, joining neighbouring Saudi Arabia in providing a corridor for the national carriers of Israel, which neither Gulf state formally recognises.

Israeli leaders hailed the announcement mainly as a gain for civil aviation to Asia and Australia – rather than any harbinger of a breakthrough in bilateral diplomacy with Muscat.

“Another great step toward regional integration. This is definitely a day of celebration for Israel,” tweeted foreign minister Eli Cohen.

Israel has been hoping Oman might join the US-brokered Abraham Accords under which Israel established or upgraded relations with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in 2020.

While Saudi Arabia is staying out of the accords, the regional powerhouse has signalled tacit support by letting Israeli airlines overfly it en route to Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Manama.

In July, US President Joe Biden announced that Riyadh would allow unfettered Israeli overflights. But implementation had been on hold pending the agreement of Oman, as the Saudi corridor extends over its territory for easterly routes.

“This historic step completes a process begun last year, during President Biden’s visit to the Middle East region,” said a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.

“For the first time in history, passengers flying to and from Israel will now be able to travel on direct routes between Israel, Asia and points in between.”

Oman’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said on Twitter: “Enforcing international and local requirements against discrimination in dealing with civilian aircraft, the Civil Aviation Authority confirms that the sultanate’s airspace is open to all carriers that meet the requirements of overflying.”

Cohen said the corridor would shorten the flight time between Israel and Asia by more than two hours. Flag carrier El Al Israel Airlines said it would examine opening new routes to Australia and restarting flights to India.

Oman has hosted Israeli leaders over the years. But, like Riyadh, Muscat has said that any normalisation of relations with Israel would require progress on the Palestinians’ long-stalled statehood drive.

“For the Abraham Accords to be successful, you must include the Palestinian voice, which is missing from these agreements,” Oman foreign minister Badr Albusaidi told Le Figaro daily in a May interview, a transcript of which was posted on his website.

“Economic peace alone will not work,” he said.