TEL AVIV, Feb. 23 (AP) — The Gulf Arab state of Oman has decided to allow Israeli aircraft to fly over its airspace, Israel’s foreign minister said Thursday. The announcement was another sign of closer ties between Israel and some Arab states.
There was no immediate confirmation from Oman. The move, which follows a similar move by Saudi Arabia last year, will shorten flight distances between Israel and Asia.
“This is a decision of great historic importance for the Israeli economy and for Israeli tourists,” said Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who said the United States was involved in the decision.
Oman and Israel have maintained a secretive relationship for years, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprise visit to the country in 2018, the first such visit in more than 20 years, attracted much attention.
Still, Oman was not among the four countries that signed a normalization deal with Israel in 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as Morocco and Sudan, have agreed to normalize relations with Israel as part of the agreement.
The sultanate has long played a low-key role in facilitating talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Located on the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north and Iran to the east, Oman has long been a quiet broker in the region, choosing to sit on the sidelines in the rivalry between the United States and China. Two regional powerhouses.
Oman also acts as a mediator between the United States and Israel’s main rival, Iran. Oman hosted the secret talks that led to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and facilitated the release of prisoners and hostages held by armed groups.
Earlier this week, Oman welcomed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s first visit outside Syria since the earthquake earlier this month. (Associated Press)
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