US praises Oman for opening airspace

White House says further regional integration with Israel 'vital' for security and prosperity

An El Al plane. Israel's Foreign Minister thanked Oman's Sultan Haitham for the decision, saying it will allow airlines to offer shorter routes to Asia. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

US President Joe Biden's administration welcomed Oman's decision to open its airspace to all airlines, including flights to and from Israel.

“Oman’s announcement promotes President Biden’s vision of a more integrated, stable and prosperous Middle East region, which is vital for the security and prosperity of the American people and our regional partners,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement on Thursday.

She added that Washington engaged in “months of quiet diplomatic engagement” in the run-up to the decision, saying that Oman's announcement “completes a process begun last year” when Saudi Arabia made a similar move.

“We are particularly grateful for the long-standing partnership with Oman and the leadership of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq,” Ms Watson said.

Washington's support of the easing of Oman's airspace restrictions was bipartisan, and the Republican leader of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Mike McCaul tweeted that “this type of cross-regional progress is essential to countering shared threats”.

Oman does not have formal relations with Israel, and Muscat did not specifically mention the country in its announcement.

Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen thanked Sultan Haitham for the decision, which will allow airlines to offer shorter routes to Asia.

“It's a historic and significant decision for the Israeli economy and the Israeli traveller,” Mr Cohen said.

Expanding the establishment of formal relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours has been a top priority for the Biden White House, which stated in its annual National Security Strategy that it aims to widen the scope of the historic Abraham Accords.

At the beginning of the year, national security advisers from the UAE, Bahrain, the US and Israel promised enhanced regional integration and co-operation after multilateral talks.

Updated: February 23, 2023, 8:12 PM