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Netanyahu, Modi discuss Air India flights 'using Saudi airspace' Open in fullscreen

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Netanyahu, Modi discuss Air India flights 'using Saudi airspace'

Air India stopped flights to Israel over 20 years ago. [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 January, 2018

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The visit on Monday was the first by an Israeli premier in 15 years, with Netanyahu accompanied by the largest-ever business delegation to travel with an Israeli leader.

Israel and India discussed the possibility of direct flights between the two countries using Saudi Arabia's airspace during a landmark visit to the country by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The visit to India on Monday was the first by an Israeli premier in 15 years, with Netanyahu accompanied by the largest-ever business delegation to travel with an Israeli leader, including technology, agriculture and defence executives.

Netanyahu and Indian leader Narendra Modi embraced warmly upon the Israeli premier's arrival, appearing to overcome any tensions over India's refusal to support US moves to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, before signing agreements on cybersecurity and energy.

"We are ushering today a new era in our relations," Netanyahu said after their talks.

"We have had diplomatic relations for 25 years, but something different is happening now because of your leadership and our partnership."

Israeli media reports said that during the talks the issue of Air India operating direct flights to Israel was also raised.

Only Israeli airline El Al currently operates flights between the two countries, with the route running through the Red Sea to Yemen before heading to Mumbai.

Air India stopped flights to Israel over 20 years ago due to a lack of economic feasibility, but the company is planning to begin new routes between New Delhi and Tel Aviv on Boeing 787s, Arutz Sheva reported.

Netanyahu and Modi discussed the possibility that Air India could fly over Saudi Arabia to Israel to shorten the flight by some two hours and increase competition along the route, Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported.

Any request to Saudi Arabia would be made by India.

If such a route was opened it would signal an unprecedented normalisation of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Most Arab countries ban Israeli carriers from using their airspace. Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab states to have formal peace treaties with Israel.

Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have official relations but various reports have recently emerged of co-operation between the two countries, who share a common foe in Iran.

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