Jared Kushner (L) and Mohammad Bin Salman (File Photo, Image credit: The Times of Israel)

Saudi opens its airspace for Israeli flights

Just four days after the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia allowed Israeli commercial flight to pass through its airspace en route to the UAE.

The agreement between the two countries was reached hours before Israel’s first commercial flight to the UAE was planned on Tuesday morning.

The direct flights between Israel on the one hand and UAE on the other are the by-product of reconciliation between the Jewish state and the Sunni Gulf kingdoms.

The agreement to allow the airspace comes in the backdrop of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s secret visit, along-with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, to the Saudi Red Sea resort of Neom for confidential talks with Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad Bin Salman. The significance of this meeting can be measured from the fact that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also present on the occasion.

Reports suggest that Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, along-with Middle East envoys Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook are set to meet the emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the emir of Kuwait during their West Asia trip later this week.

The main objective of Mr. Kushner’s visit to this region is to urge the Gulf kingdoms to cease their blockade of Qatar which has been in place since 2017. The Saudi-led blockade of Qatar pushed the latter into the orbit of Iran which fully exploited the situation. Qatar is to hold the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

As mentioned before, the hectic activity in the region comes in the backdrop of the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iran has blamed the Israeli spy agency Mossad for the assassination as Mr. Fakhrizadeh was a leading light of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Earlier in the year Gen. Qassem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed in a US drone strike. Iran had then too vowed to retaliate.

It needs to be seen how the coming Biden Administration deals with the challenge of coping with Iran on the one hand and managing its relations with its allies—the Gulf kingdoms and Israel.

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