Nov 16, 2022 - World

U.S. and Oman discuss potential opening of Omani airspace to Israeli planes

Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi

Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi in Muscat on May 11. Photo: Mahhamed Mahjoub/AFP via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Tony Blinken met with Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi last week to discuss the potential opening of Omani airspace to Israeli airlines and other issues, U.S. and Israeli officials said.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia in July gave Israeli airlines permission to use its airspace for eastbound flights to India and China. This was a significant step on the path toward normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and one of the achievements of President Biden’s trip to the kingdom.

  • But without similar permission from Oman, the flight routes for Israeli airlines are blocked and the Saudi move becomes largely meaningless.

Flashback: In 2018, Netanyahu, then prime minister, visited Oman and got a commitment from then-Sultan Qaboos to allow Israeli airlines to use Omani airspace.

  • But after Qaboos died, current Sultan Haitham bin Tariq rolled back the decision.

Behind the scenes: U.S. and Israeli officials said that since July, the Biden administration has been trying to convince the Omanis to open the airspace to Israeli airlines.

  • The Omanis had several bilateral issues and requests from the U.S. that they wanted to get in return. One of them was launching a strategic dialogue between the countries focused on education and cultural exchange, trade and investment, and renewable energy, the two countries said.
  • During the Omani foreign minister’s visit to Washington last week, the strategic dialogue took place for the first time and several other issues, including Yemen and regional security, were discussed.
  • U.S. and Israeli officials hope the progress made during the talks in Washington last week could pave the way for Oman to open its airspace to Israeli airlines.

The White House declined to comment and the Omani Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper