Air Force One arrives in Jeddah on historic Israel to Saudi flight

AFP , Friday 15 Jul 2022

US President Joe Biden emerged from Air Force One on Friday, minutes after landing in Saudi Arabia and walked along a lavender carpet past a sword-bearing honor cordon.

President Joe Biden is greeted by Saudi officials as he arrives at King Abdulaziz International Airport, Friday, July 15, 2022, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. AP


The subdued arrival ceremony in the Red Sea city of Jeddah featured no formal program.

The president was greeted upon arrival by Mecca's governor, Prince Khalid bin Faisal, and Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar.

Biden is the first US president to fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia, on the last leg of his tour of the Middle East.

US President Joe Biden waves before his departure to Saudi Arabia from Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel Friday, July 15, 2022. AP


Biden is set to participate in a summit to be held in Jeddah and bring together the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, in addition to Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.

The Arab-US summit is expected to tackle regional issues of concern and mechanisms of enhancing joint work to achieve stability in the region.

Saudi Arabia announced earlier Friday it was lifting restrictions on "all carriers" using its airspace, an apparent gesture of openness towards Israel hours before Biden's arrival.

The Saudi civil aviation authority "announces the decision to open the Kingdom's airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the authority for overflying", it said in a statement.

The decision was made "to complement the Kingdom's efforts aimed at consolidating the Kingdom's position as a global hub connecting three continents".

Biden said in a statement later Friday that Riyadh's move came "thanks to months of steady diplomacy between my administration and Saudi Arabia."

"As we mark this important moment, Saudi Arabia's decision can help build momentum toward Israel's further integration into the region, including with Saudi Arabia," Biden said.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid thanked Biden on Friday for "long, intense and secret diplomatic negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the United States" to reach a deal on overflights.

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