Oman’s leader Qaboos bin Said al Said has given El Al permission to fly over his country’s airspace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, at an annual conference for Israeli ambassadors serving abroad.
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Saudi Arabia has not given similar permission to El Al, and without that permission, the ability to fly over Oman is largely symbolic, with little practical significance.
“At this time, we can overfly Egypt. We can overfly Chad, that has already been set. And to all appearances, we can also overfly this corner of Sudan,” he said, pointing on a map to the northwestern corner of Sudan that borders Egypt, Chad, and Libya. The ability to fly to South America over Egypt, Sudan and Chad would cut at least two hours in flight time from the more circuitous route taken today.
“This opens other markets. This is another quarter of a billion people,” the prime minister said.
Currently, Israel and Sudan have no diplomatic relations, though there were reports following Déby’s visit that Sudan would be the next African state in line to establish ties with Israel. This, however, was denied by the leader of the ruling party in Sudan.
Netanyahu’s comments about the flights came as discussed how Israel’s diplomatic relations have flourished – a product of the intelligence and technology it has to offer.
“The combination of our intelligence and technological capabilities gives us a map of relations that is getting bigger,” Netanyahu said, adding that the most important flight route to Israel is the direct flight to San Francisco, California.
“It doesn’t matter how many flight are added, there are not enough,” he said of this route to Silicon Valley. “These are not tourists, these are investors.”
The second most important route, he said, was to Beijing and other cities in China. “This is the biggest market that has opened, and it is important to get a free trade agreement.”
And the third most important route, he said, is to India, noting that Air India flies to and from New Delhi everyday directly over Saudi Arabia.
“Soon we will fly to Mumbai,” he said, referring to a new direct flight over Saudi Arabia and Oman to Mumbai, since El Al currently flies there via a more circuitous route. “Tel Aviv-Mumbai is a shorter flight than Tel Aviv-London,” he added.
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