Biden hails opening of Saudi airspace ahead of historic flight

President Biden
AP/Evan Vucci
U.S. President Biden gives his remarks after his visit to Augusta Victoria Hospital in east Jerusalem, Friday, July 15, 2022. Biden is making a stop at the hospital in east Jerusalem, after the Trump administration cut funds to the facility.

Biden on Friday called Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift a ban on Israeli flights a step toward a more stable Middle East region, just hours ahead of his planned flight from Israel to Jeddah.

“Saudi Arabia’s historic decision to open its airspace for all civilian planes, including those flying to and from Israel, is an important step towards building a more integrated and stable Middle East region,” he said.

Biden, who will be the first U.S. leader to fly directly from Israel to the kingdom, touted his administration’s work to get to the airspace opening.

“While this opening has long been discussed, now, thanks to months of steady diplomacy between my Administration and Saudi Arabia, it is finally a reality,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s decision signaled an end to its longstanding prohibition on commercial flights to and from Israel flying over the country, which is a step toward normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“As we mark this important moment, Saudi Arabia’s decision can help build momentum toward Israel’s further integration into the region, including with Saudi Arabia. I will do all that I can, through direct diplomacy and leader-to-leader engagement, to keep advancing this groundbreaking process,” the president said.

On Thursday, Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid discussed the importance of the president’s upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, which Lapid called “extremely important to Israel.”

And, the two leaders discussed integrating Israel into the Middle East. Later on Thursday, Biden said he strongly supports the Abraham Accords, promoting the Trump-era declarations as a way to integrate Israel into the Middle East.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also hailed the opening of Saudi Arabian airspace as a victory from the administration’s diplomacy.

“This decision is the result of the President’s persistent and principled diplomacy with Saudi Arabia over many months, culminating in his visit today,” Sullivan said in a statement. “This decision paves the way for a more integrated, stable, and secure Middle East region, which is vital for the security and prosperity of the United States and the American people, and for the security and prosperity of Israel.”

Tags airspace Biden Middle East trip Israel Joe Biden President Biden Saudi Arabia

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