Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen recently held a rare phone conversation with his Omani counterpart, after Muscat announced last month that it would open its airspace to Israeli commercial flights.
Cohen and Sayyid Badr Albusaidi discussed matters relating to the opening of the skies, and heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to i24NEWS.
Oman’s decision on Feb. 23 was the culmination of months of talks between the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Omani authorities, and after Saudi Arabia announced last July during U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel the opening of its airspace to Israeli aircraft.
The Saudi move had hitherto proved largely symbolic, as shortening flight times between Israel and countries such as India and China required a similar authorization from Oman.
“This historic decision will shorten the time of flights from Israel to Asia and lower ticket prices. I thank Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the National Security Council and the director general of the Foreign Ministry,” said Cohen at the time.
“I thank the Sultan of Oman Haitham bin Tariq Al Said and our American friends for their substantial help in the success of the move,” he added.
On Feb. 26, an El Al Boeing 787 Dreamliner that took off from Tel Aviv for Bangkok at 8:40 p.m. became the first Israeli commercial flight to cross Omani airspace.
The new route will shorten flight times between Israel and Thailand by three hours, and substantially reduce flight times to several other far eastern countries. For instance, a flight to India will take five-and-a-half hours instead of eight and a half.
“The Far East is not so far away and the skies are no longer the limit. This is a day of great news for Israeli aviation. Israel has, in effect, become the main transit point between Asia and Europe,” said Netanyahu last month.
Oman is still on the fence about normalizing relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords, to which the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have signed on to.
Netanyahu said he was actively courting Riyadh in an effort to persuade it to join in the accords as that would constitute a “quantum leap” towards regional peace.
“Obviously, the next step could be not just another country but a quantum leap in expanding the circle of peace, and I’m talking of course about peace with Saudi Arabia,” Netanyahu continued. “I think that if we can achieve this, maybe through gradual steps, maybe it will take some normalization steps, it will change Israel’s relationship with the rest of the Arab world.”
According to reports, Israel is currently working to expand the Abraham Accords to four additional nations—Mauritania, Somalia, Niger and Indonesia.