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Saudi Arabia refuses to allow Israel to attend UNESCO meeting

June 30, 2023 at 9:29 am

This photograph shows the logo of UNESCO during the 75th anniversary celebrations of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 12 November 2021. [JULIEN DE ROSA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia has so far refused to sign a document committing to free access to all UNESCO members for the World Heritage Committee’s meeting in September, with the issue of allowing Israeli officials to enter the country as the main sticking point, Axios quoted informed Israeli officials and Western diplomats as saying.

According to the site, Western diplomats and senior UNESCO officials have, in recent weeks, held talks with the Saudi officials regarding the “host country agreement”; which is a condition for initiating the formal preparations and procedures for organising the meeting.

While Saudi Arabia has not specifically mentioned Israel in its objections to signing the agreement, the Israeli and UNESCO sources said that it is clear Israel is the primary sticking point.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia wants to be taking a cautious approach to any public steps that could be seen as normalisation with the occupation state, noting that if the kingdom agrees to allow Israeli representatives to attend, it would be the first time officials from Israel are allowed to officially and publicly enter the country.

However, if the Saudis refuse, the event could be moved to a different country.

Last March, Saudi Arabia effectively blocked the participation of an Israeli delegation headed by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in a conference of the UN tourism organisation by stalling on issuing their visas and discussing security arrangements.

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