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Special: UAE-Israel flights near take-off

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The UAE and Israel will soon sign a commercial aviation agreement to start regular flights following the normalisation of relations between the two countries.

Ofer Malka, director-general of Israel’s Transportation Ministry, said the aviation deal is “more or less ready, and we will sign it in the coming days.”

In addition, Malka told Army Radio that Tel Aviv will allow UAE carriers to fly over Israeli airspace en route to westward destinations.

On August 13, the UAE and Israel announced full normalisation of relations in a historic diplomatic breakthrough in order to advance peace in the Middle East. On September 15, the two countries signed a historic Araham Accord in Washington DC.

Bahrain has also normalised ties with Israel. Saudi Arabia has agreed to expedite such flights by letting them pass over its territory but it is not yet ready to establish formal ties with Israel.

Since the normalisation of relations, a number of Israeli diplomatic and business delegations have visited the UAE in order to further improve ties.

The private sector in both countries have hailed the peace deal, which will substantially improve travel, tourism and trade. In addition, defence and technology sectors will benefit from the deal. It is estimated that bilateral trade will reach $4 billion in the initial stages.

It is estimated that around 1.25 million tourists will travel between the two countries for tourism and business trips in the initial stages. Up to 0.75 million visitors from the UAE are expected to visit Israel, while up to 0.5 million Israeli tourists will visit the UAE in the first, said Bal Krishen, chairman of Century Financial.

“The UAE with its bustling life has always been the most popular tourism destination in the region. Israel, known for its ancient archaeological and architectural sites, is also a well-known and popular tourism destination for European and American travellers,” said Krishen.

Avinash Adnani, managing director of Pluto Travels, said everyone is excited and waiting for the visas and flights to start between the two countries.

“Once visas and flights start, it will be a different ball game altogether. We know there is a Covid-19 issue but the UAE is at least open. Ground work has already started as our phone and virtual meetings have started. But people want to have a first-hand experience. Our counterparts in Israel want to visit the UAE and promote it when they go back. We want to go right now also but via Jordan is not convenient. When flights and visas open, they will help expedite the process,” said Adnani.

Quoting sources, Reuters reported that an Israeli delegation accompanied by senior US officials is scheduled to fly out to Manama and Abu Dhabi on October 18-19 and return to Tel Aviv on October 20 with UAE delegates aboard making a first official visit to Israel. It said El Al Israel Airlines and Etihad Airways would operate flights initially.

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