Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday thanked authorities in Saudi Arabia — with which his country has no formal ties — for their “warm attitude” following an emergency aircraft landing in Jeddah.
The Air Seychelles flight laden with Israeli passengers was heading from the Seychelles to Tel Aviv.
Saudi airspace had been closed to flights to and from Israel until July 2022, when it opened to coincide with a visit by US President Joe Biden to the region.
The Air Seychelles flight made an emergency landing Monday in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah due to technical difficulties.
On Tuesday the Israeli foreign ministry said an Israeli charter flight had retrieved the Israelis from Jeddah.
“I greatly appreciate the warm attitude of the Saudi authorities to the Israeli passengers whose flight was in distress and was compelled to make an emergency landing in Jeddah,” Netanyahu said in a brief video statement.
אני מאוד מעריך את היחס החם של הרשויות הסעודיות לנוסעים הישראלים שהמטוס שלהם נקלע למצוקה ונאלץ לנחות נחיתת חירום בג’דה.
אני שמח שכולם חוזרים הביתה.
אני מאוד מעריך את השכנות הטובה. pic.twitter.com/XyVj0o9B1g
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) August 29, 2023
According to Israeli media, there were 128 Israeli passengers aboard the Air Seychelles flight. They were welcomed and given overnight accommodation in the Red Sea city.
Though Saudi Arabia was not one of the Gulf and Arab countries to normalise ties with Israel as part of the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords, speculation has grown of an impending deal.
Riyadh and Washington have held talks on Saudi conditions for progress on normalisation, according to people briefed on the meetings.
But Israeli press commentators suggested such efforts have been severely compromised on the back of Israel’s announcement of a meeting between its foreign minister and his Libyan counterpart in Rome.
The announcement sparked protests in Libya, which does not recognise Israel, and led to the dismissal of Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush.
But Israel’s foreign ministry on Monday denied having been the source of the “leak” about the meeting between the two ministers, without providing further explanation.
According to analyst Barak Ravid, the incident could contribute to dissuading Arab countries from engaging in any further steps to normalise with Israel, he wrote for the Israeli website Walla.