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Israel-UAE to talk direct flights amid ‘full normalisation of relations’

written by Sandy Milne | August 14, 2020

A file image of an El Al Boeing 747. (Airlinerwatch)
A file image of an El Al Boeing 747. (Airlinerwatch)

The establishment of direct air links between Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport and major Emirati cities will be front of mind as the countries move towards a “full normalisation of relations”, officials from both governments said.

In a joint statement, the UAE and Israel announced that tourism and “direct flights” will form a core part of bilateral agreements to be drafted and signed over the coming weeks and months.

Announced on Thursday by US President Donald Trump, the so-called ‘Abraham Agreement’ secures an Israeli commitment to halt further annexation of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank.

“Everybody said this would be impossible,” the US President told reporters at the White House. “After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalise their diplomatic relations. They will exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin co-operation across the board and on a broad range of areas including tourism, education, healthcare, trade and security.”

After Jordan and Egypt, the development makes the UAE the third Arab nation to announce formal diplomatic ties with Israel, though covert commerce and intelligence links have received widespread attention.

While the news comes as a potential boon for Emirati carriers, many have pointed out that El Al’s ability to serve the route would be hampered by a ban on entering Saudi airspace.

Earlier in the year, Etihad became the first UAE airline to operate a direct service to Israel, after the company operated a freight flight filled with aid destined for Palestine.

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