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'No talk of military cooperation': Saudi plays down growing relations with Israel

Saudi Arabia's top diplomat on Saturday downplayed talks of normalisation with Israel

No talk of military cooperation: Saudi plays down growing relations with Israel
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Saudi Arabia's top diplomat on Saturday downplayed talks of normalisation with Israel after the kingdom opened its airspace to Israeli commercial flights and hammered out a complex deal over islands in the Red Sea that required Israeli assent.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Farhan bin Faisal spoke to reporters after a four-day visit by President Joe Biden to the region, including two days that the US leader spent in Saudi Arabia, where he held talks with the Saudi king and the crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, and took part in a summit of regional leaders.

Prince Farhan stressed there was no discussion at the summit of any military cooperation with Israel or talk of a so-called Arab NATO.

In a statement posted to Twitter hours before Biden is set to become the first US leader to fly directly from Israel to the kingdom, Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation said it was announcing "the decision to open the kingdom's airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the authority for overflying."

The announcement is an incremental step toward the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and builds on the strong but informal ties the erstwhile foes have developed recent years over their shared concerns about Iran's growing influence in the region.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has allowed flights between Israel and Gulf states to cross through its airspace. In 2020, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and last week several Israeli defense reporters visited the kingdom and published news reports about their welcome.

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