Saudi Arabia on Friday opened its airspace to “all air carriers”, signalling the end of its longstanding ban on Israeli flights through its territory.

It is a key step toward normalisation between the two nations as US President Joe Biden visits the region.

In a statement posted to Twitter hours before Mr Biden was set to become the first US leader to fly directly from Israel to the kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said it was announcing the decision.

Biden US MideastJoe Biden was taking part in a visit to the region when the announcement was made (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

It builds on the strong but informal ties the countries have developed over their shared concerns about Iran’s growing influence in the region.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has allowed flights between Israel and Gulf states to cross through its airspace.

In 2020, then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Last week several Israeli defence reporters visited the kingdom and published news reports about their welcome.