US President Joe Biden landed Friday in Saudi Arabia, where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, AFP reported.
Saudi state media showed images of Air Force One at the airport in the coastal city of Jeddah, where Biden landed after a flight from Israel, making him the first US leader to fly directly from Israel to an Arab nation that does not recognize it.
Biden was greeted by Mecca province governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal and Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington.
He later met Prince Mohammed, the kingdom's de facto leader, who greeted Biden with a fist bump and escorting him into Jeddah's Al-Salam palace.
Biden met Saudi King Salman, and he and Prince Mohammed sat across from one another at a large conference table for a "working session", according to AFP.
The meeting lasted for three hours, following which Biden delivered remarks. The President will participate in the GCC+3 summit on Saturday morning, before flying home to Washington in the late afternoon.
On Thursday night, hours before Biden’s arrival, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) announced that the Kingdom's airspace will be opened for all air carriers that meet the requirements of "the authority for overflying".
While the statement did not specifically mention Israel, it came hours after a US official told Reuters that Saudi Arabia will soon allow unfettered overflight to Israeli airlines and permit direct charter flights from Israel for Muslims participating in the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.
On Wednesday, three Israeli officials told Barak Ravid of Axios that steps toward normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel are expected to be announced over the weekend after Biden meets the Saudi King and Crown Prince.
According to the report, the White House wants to discuss a road map for normalization between the countries during Biden's visit to the region.
Sullivan confirmed in a briefing with reporters earlier this week that the Biden administration is working on the issue, but he refused to go into details.
Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia has caused some controversy at home, after his administration last year released US intelligence findings that Prince Mohammed "approved" an operation targeting journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose gruesome killing in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate sparked global outrage.
Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, after initially denying Turkish claims that he was murdered.
Khashoggi’s murder had resulted in tensions between lawmakers and the White House. Trump had reaffirmed his support for Saudi Arabia, despite the murder of Khashoggi, insisting the US-Saudi Arabian alliance is beneficial not only for American interests, but also for those of Israel.
Lawmakers from both parties, meanwhile, had called for a strong US response to Khashoggi's murder.
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)