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Saudi Arabia refuses visas for Israeli delegation to UN tourism event

March 13, 2023 at 3:57 pm

People holding banners and Israeli flags gather to protest [Celal Güneş – Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Arabia has rejected visa applications for members of an Israeli delegation invited to attend the UN World Tourism Organisation conference in Al-Ula, Bloomberg has reported. Israeli settlers from Kafr Kanna in Galilee were due to join representatives from 22 other countries at the conference but didn’t get appropriate visas despite an appeal from the UN for equal treatment between member states and the billions spent by the Kingdom to develop a major tourism industry.

Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia and the Arab Israeli city of Kafr Kanna are among the 32 places selected by the UN for its list of best rural tourism destinations of the year.

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“There were great expectations ahead of the event, and it is frustrating that we were prevented from taking part in it,” Israeli Mayor Zakaria Napso was quoted as saying by Walla news site.

According to Walla, Israel’s ministry of tourism condemned the rejection of the visa applications. “Israel calls on the UN World Tourism Organisation and other UN bodies to preserve the UN’s guidelines, including equal treatment in ensuring the participation of states in the organisation’s events. In this case, the organisation failed to meet these standards, which is regrettable.”

The visa issue came after Saudi Arabia announced that it has restored relations with Iran after years of estrangement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he wants full diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, expanding the normalisation deals reached with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020 brokered by the US.

Israel and Gulf monarchies share concerns over Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes and its network of proxies in the region. However, while Saudi Arabia did not condemn the UAE and Bahrain normalisation with the occupation state, it has stopped short of formally recognising Israel in the absence of a resolution to Palestinian statehood goals.

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