First “normalization flight” from Tel Aviv to Saudi Arabia to take off
Reports emerged on Thursday on underway agreements to activate direct flights from Tel Aviv to Saudi Arabia, in the first such move in the kingdom’s history, to carry Muslim pilgrims.
According to Hebrew-speaking Yedioth Ahronoth daily, direct flights from the Israeli Ben Gurion Airport to Saudi Arabia with a stopover in Amman, Jordan are to kick off sometime soon in a symbolic move aiming to normalize ties with Israel.
According to the same source, the decision was reached following behind-closed-doors talks carried out recently between the US, the Palestinian Authority, chaired by Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan, and Israel to transfer pilgrims from Ben Gurion Airport to Saudi Arabia.
The plane will reportedly stop over in Jordan before re-taking off to Saudi Arabia.
Yedioth Ahronoth quoted an Israeli official as stating that talks have been in full swing to put the agreement into effect at the soonest time possible. The first phase of the accord includes flights onboard foreign airlines.
The agreement makes part of underway attempts to normalize Saudi Arabia-Israel ties under US mediation.
Recently, Israel's transport minister proposed linking its freight railway network with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and said he presented the idea to U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy. Under the proposal, goods and passengers could travel by rail from Israel's Mediterranean port of Haifa through Jordan to Saudi Arabia's Gulf port of Dammam via Jordan.
Prior to the agreement, Saudi Arabia refused all normalization initiatives, including the transfer of pilgrims to Makkah to perform Hajj (greater pilgrimage) or Umrah (minor pilgrimage) through Ben Gurion Airport.