Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Friday hailed Saudi Arabia’s decision to open the kingdom’s airspace to Israeli commercial flights, describing the move as the culmination of an “intense and covert” process.

“I thank the Saudi leadership for the opening of Saudi airspace. This is only the first step. We will continue working with necessary caution, for the sake of Israel’s economy, security and the good of our citizens,” he said in a statement released by his office. He also thanked U.S. President Joe Biden for Washington’s “commitment to Israel’s military and diplomatic strength.”

Earlier Friday, Riyadh announced the opening of its airspace to “all carriers,” paving the way for Israeli airlines to overfly the kingdom, according to a statement by the country’s General Authority of Civil Aviation.

“Within the framework of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s keenness to fulfill its obligations under the Chicago Convention of 1944, which stipulates non-discrimination between civil aircrafts used in international air navigation, and to complement the efforts aimed at consolidating the Kingdom’s position as a global hub connecting three continents and to enhance international air connectivity, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) announces the decision to open the Kingdom’s airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the Authority for overflying,” the Saudi statement said.

In response, Lapid noted that the decision was preceded by Thursday’s signing of the ‘Jerusalem Declaration‘, which deepens the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership in “the fight against the Iranian nuclear program and the advancing of normalization initiatives [like that] of the Abraham Accords.”

For his part, Biden called Friday’s development “historic” and an “important step towards building a more integrated and stable Middle East region,” according to local reports. The U.S. president added that he would do “all that I can, through direct diplomacy and leader-to-leader engagement, to keep advancing this groundbreaking process.”

Biden on Friday morning visited the Augusta Victoria Hospital, located on the Mount of Olives in eastern Jerusalem, and then traveled to Bethlehem for a meeting with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas.

Following the meeting with Abbas, Biden will be greeted by Prime Minister Lapid, President Isaac Herzog and other officials at Ben-Gurion Airport, for a small farewell ceremony ahead of the U.S. leader’s departure to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

JNS

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