'Arabs offer flyover rights for freeze'

Arab states offer Israel

A number of North African and Persian Gulf states have promised to give Israeli airliners flyover rights in their airspace, as well as other concessions, if Israel freezes settlement construction, according to a report on Tuesday in the Washington Times. An unnamed US official said that US Mideast envoy George Mitchell has received private assurances from representatives of unspecified Arab countries that they would also open interest sections in Israel and end a travel ban against Israeli citizens if Israel completely halts the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Saudi Arabia, according to the Times, will not offer flyover rights if a comprehensive peace agreement is not reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The report came against the backdrop of a much-awaited trilateral meeting between US President Barak Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in New York on Tuesday. Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank is expected to be a key point in the talks, with Netanyahu reportedly have offered a temporary freeze of six to nine months as a concession. Currently, Israeli airliners flying to destinations in the Far East must make a wide detour to avoid flying over countries such as Saudia Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan, adding hours to flight times and heavy fuel costs to Israeli carriers.