Under Wednesday’s agreement with Jordanian and European aviation authorities to shorten flight times, Israel will open its airspace to international flights to and from Qatar for the duration of the World Cup. soccer world 2022.
The news, announced by the Israel Airports Authority, comes a week after the agreement reached with FIFA allowing Israeli football fans to travel to Qatar for the World Cup next November and December, even as the two countries do not maintain formal diplomatic relations.
According to Wednesday’s announcement, European and American football fans en route to Qatar will be able to fly over Israel, Cyprus and Jordan on the way there and back.
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A source familiar with the matter told the Times of Israel that the agreement could continue to produce its effects even after the World Cup is over, for flights to the east bound for Qatar.
The Israel Aviation Authority (IAA), the Israeli Air Force and the Civil Aviation Authority have reached an agreement with the Jordanian aviation authorities and with the European Safety Organization air navigation, known as Eurocontrol.
The IAA said the deal will double – and even more – the number of overflights of Israel.
“Israel is showing sportsmanship and opening its air borders for the benefit of the fans,” said Transport Minister Merav Michaeli. “I welcome this collaboration and look forward to working on other regional collaborations. »
Last week, the ministers of foreign affairs, defence, culture and sports announced in a joint statement that Israeli citizens – who normally can only enter Qatar with a foreign passport – would be able to travel freely and attend World Cup matches.
Under the agreement with FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, Israelis wishing to attend matches must buy a ticket for a match and then apply online for a fan ID card, the issuance of which grants its holder the right to enter Qatar and reserve accommodation.
The statement did not address security issues regarding travel to Qatar, a country with close ties to both the West, Iran and the Hamas terror group. The initial plan to set up direct flights between Israel and the small Gulf nation, announced for a time, has not yet materialized. The agreement announced on Wednesday is indeed silent on the issue of direct flights between Israel and Qatar.
The pressure surrounding sports tournaments is helping to clear new diplomatic horizons for Israel in the Gulf. In 2018, two years before agreeing to establish relations with Israel, Abu Dhabi allowed the presence of the Israeli flag and anthem at sporting events, ending an old policy that the United Arab Emirates shared with most other Gulf States.
Qatar hosted an Israeli trade office from 1995 to 2000, but it is unlikely to join other Gulf states that have established full ties with Israel, due to its relationship with Iran.
Amy Spiro contributed to this article.