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The continuation of regular flights from Israel to Jordan and Egypt is so important the government will help finance it, the Transportation Ministry announced Tuesday.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz will assemble a joint team of representatives from the Prime Minister's Office, the Finance Ministry and his own office to study the issue, charging the group with determining the value of subsidies the government will pay to ensure continued El Al flights to Cairo and continued Arkia flights to Amman.
Security costs and a lack of consumer interest in the flights have made the routes unprofitable, the airlines have claimed, leading to months of government negotiations over how to ensure continued air service to the two Arab capitals.
Transportation Ministry officials emphasized the "political and diplomatic" significance of continued air traffic to the Arab world Tuesday, with Mofaz noting that a stoppage of flights by Israeli carriers could put Israel in breach of aviation agreements previously signed with Egypt and Jordan. "Economic ties between Israel, Jordan and Egypt have tightened in recent years," Mofaz added, "and the continued existence of regular [air service between them] is vital to ensuring" relations continue.
Arkia began offering regular flights between Tel Aviv and Amman in November 2000, a week after El Al abandoned the route. El Al, for its part, has in the past offered daily service to Cairo, but scaled back the route to two round-trip flights per week because of a lack of consumer interest.
The airline announced last August it would stop flying to Egypt entirely, but has agreed to keep the route active during ongoing negotiations with the government. A previous deal between the airline and the government split security costs of the Cairo route evenly between them.
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