Saudis say 'all countries' can fly to, from UAE over kingdom

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday that flights to and from the United Arab Emirates "from all countries" will now be able to use its airspace — a statement apparently allowing flyovers by Israel following a deal to normalize UAE-Israel relations.

The vaguely worded statement avoided naming Israel directly. However, the announcement came just days after the kingdom allowed the first direct Israeli commercial passenger flight to use its airspace to reach the UAE. Any direct flight between the two nations would need to use Saudi airspace to be commercially viable.

The statement makes no mention of the kingdom's rival, Iran, nor Qatar, which Saudi Arabia is currently boycotting. Flights to and from those countries to the Emirates would, in theory, not need to use the kingdom's airspace.

The Saudi Press Agency said the move comes in response to a "request by the UAE" for flights to and from the country.

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan wrote on Twitter that the kingdom's "firm and established position toward the Palestinian cause will not change." However, even he did not directly name Israel in his tweet.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the announcement in an online video, signaling it directly involved his country.

"For years, I have been working to open the skies between Israel and the East," he said. "Now there is another tremendous breakthrough — Israeli planes and those from all countries will be able to fly directly from Israel to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and back. Flights will be cheaper and shorter, and it will lead to robust tourism and develop our economy."

Earlier this week, Jared Kushner, the U.S. president's son-in-law and senior adviser, flew with a high-level Israeli delegation to the UAE on the first direct commercial passenger flight between the two countries, a Star of David emblazoned on the jet's tail. The flight traversed Saudi airspace, signaling at least acquiescence for a breakthrough U.S.-brokered deal by the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations with Israel.