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Israel and Oman discuss opening air space to Israeli aircraft

This picture taken on August 3, 2020 shows the tail end of an Israeli El Al airline Boeing 737-958 aircraft on the tarmac at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, east of Tel Aviv. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli El Al airline Boeing 737-958 aircraft at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on 3 August 2020 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Israel and Oman are holding talks about opening up Omani air space to aircraft flying from and to the occupation state, Arabi21 has reported. It is being seen as an effort to get another Arab country to normalise relations with Israel.

"Two years into the signing of the historic Abraham Accords that normalised ties between Israel and a number of Arab states, Jerusalem [sic] continues efforts to usher in new partners in the region," reported i24 website. "A senior Israeli official recently met with Oman's Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Bin Hamad Bin Hamood Al-Busaidi to advance ties and boost regional cooperation."

The website said that it had obtained an official Israeli Foreign Ministry document which said that the meeting took place on the sidelines of the MEDRC forum in Oman, which was attended by the Deputy Director General of Israel's Foreign Ministry and Head of the Middle East and Peace Process Division.

"The sultanate seeks to differentiate itself from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and therefore any future advancement in ties would require a separate and direct link between Muscat and Jerusalem [sic] with an emphasis on the fruits of economic peace and in line with the guidelines from Saudi Arabia," said Al-Busaidi.

According to i24, "An issue of concern on Israel's agenda is the future opening of Oman's skies to Israeli flights. Securing passage over the skies of the Persian Gulf Arab country is necessary to take advantage of Saudi Arabia's announcement of opening its air space to Israeli flights." No breakthrough has been made as yet, it added. "The Omani minister stressed his country prefers to have an active but quiet involvement in the region that will enable it to maintain direct dialogue with both Israel and the Palestinians."

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The website also noted that Israel has invited Oman to join the Negev Forum and cooperate in a number of regional projects with an emphasis on those benefiting Palestinians.

During a phone call with outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in July, Al-Busaidi apparently said that his country "will not be the third Gulf nation to normalise ties with Israel" but added that the Sultanate will support "a just, comprehensive and lasting peace on the basis of the two-state solution."

Despite the absence of any concrete decisions, said i24, Israel sees the meeting itself as "significant progress" that could lead to high-level talks.

In 2018, the then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Muscat where he met with the late Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. He was the first Israeli leader to travel publicly to the Gulf country since 1996, when the late Prime Minister Shimon Peres traveled to Oman and Qatar during which he opened a trade office in Doha. The late Yitzhak Rabin also visited Oman in 1994. Israel's Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz followed Netanyahu by visiting Oman to attend an international conference.

Arabi21 asked the Omani Foreign Ministry for a comment about the meeting. No reply was received.

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