Foreign Ministry: Aviation agreement 'secures recovery of tourism and aviation industries'

Israel welcomes favorable European Union vote, says Open Skies is 'an important expression of the relationship Israel has with the EU.'

Tags: Open Skies

Plane (illustrative)
Plane (illustrative)

Israel on Thursday welcomed the European parliament's ratification of an aviation treaty, despite criticism from leading European Union (EU) members of its plans to apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.

Overnight, the parliament voted by 437 to 102 to ratify an "open skies" agreement which was signed in 2013 to give Israeli airlines and those of the 27 member states of the European Union, access to one another's airports.

A motion to postpone ratification in protest at the proposed annexation was earlier defeated by 388 votes to 278 with 20 abstentions.

A statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry made no mention of the annexation issue but said ratification was "made possible by ongoing and intensive diplomatic work" by Israeli ambassadors in Europe.

"The final ratification of this agreement is an important expression of the relationship Israel has with the EU," the Israeli statement quoted Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White) as saying.

"This is a major message that will secure the recovery of the tourism and aviation industries."

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel has imposed a near shutdown of flights in or out, dealing a heavy blow to its vital tourism and airline businesses.

Speaking during a visit to Jerusalem by his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said a gradual reopening of the skies would only be sustainable if coronavirus infection rates remain under control.

Israel is so far weathering the pandemic relatively well with about 20,000 infections and just over 300 dead from its population of nine million.

But an easing of coronavirus controls in recent weeks has been accompanied by an increase in infections, prompting fears that restrictions may need to be reimposed.