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Israeli Delegation Barred from Attending UN Event in Saudi Arabia

March 14, 2023

by: Kate Norman

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The Saudi Arabian city of Al-‘Ula, site of the UNWTO event heralding newly selected international tourist destinations, contains ruins of bygone days.

Tuesday, 14 March 2023 | Despite Jerusalem and Washington’s attempts over the past few years to foster good relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Saudi kingdom snubbed the Jewish state by blocking an Israeli delegation from attending a recent United Nations [UN] event.

Saudi officials refused to issue visas for an Israeli delegation to attend an event in Saudi Arabia honoring the best tourist destinations worldwide, even though an Israeli village was being honored in the event and the Israeli delegation had been invited by the UN.

The northern Circassian town of Kfar Kama in Israel’s northern Galilee region was selected by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as an international tourist village among 22 other worldwide destinations.

The award ceremony was held on Sunday and Monday in the Saudi village of Al-‘Ula, which was also honored on the UNWTO’s list of tourist destinations.

The UN and Israel both demanded that the Israeli delegation be issued visas, but to no avail. The secretary general of the UNWTO wrote the Saudi ministry of tourism requesting visas, the Jerusalem Post reported, as did the Israeli foreign ministry.

“There were great expectations ahead of the event, and it is frustrating that we were prevented from taking part in it,” Mayor Zakaria Napso of Kafr Kama told Israel’s Walla news site.

Israel’s tourism ministry also expressed disappointment.

“Israel calls on the UNWTO and on UN bodies to preserve the UN’s guidelines, including equal treatment in ensuring the participation of states in the organization’s events,” the ministry said, as quoted by the Times of Israel. “In this case, the UNWTO failed to meet these standards, which is regrettable.”

Saudi Arabia was rumored and hoped to be one of the next Arab states to normalize ties with Israel following the historic Abraham Accords in 2020, in which the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed a US-brokered peace treaty with the Jewish state.

The kingdom recently unofficially opened its skies to allow Israeli civilian flights to pass through, raising hopes of warming ties between Jerusalem and Riyadh. However, on Friday, Saudi Arabia inked an agreement with Iran, Israel’s arch foe, to restore diplomatic relations. And now, Saudi officials’ refusal to issue visas to their Israeli guests shows just how far Israel has to grasp for a hand of peace from Saudi Arabia.

Posted on March 14, 2023

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 14, 2023)

Photo Credit: Amanderson2/

Photo License: flickr

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