Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Saudi Arabia denies visa to Israeli delegation: Report

Riyadh has reportedly refused to issue entry visa to an Israeli delegation that had been invited to a tourism event in Saudi Arabia, dashing Tel Aviv's hopes of warming relations with the kingdom.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) had invited the delegation from the town of Kfar Kama in the northern part of the occupied territories to partake in the two-day event in the northwestern Saudi city of al-‘Ula, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.

The UNWTO had extended the invitation to the delegation consisting of Kfar Kama’s residents after the UN body included the name of the town on an exclusive list of tourist destinations.

Saudi authorities, however, issued visas to all the 22 countries invited to the event, but declined to offer visas to the Israeli delegation.

“The Israeli delegation started to worry when they didn’t receive their visas at the beginning of the month,” The Jerusalem Post reported, covering the development.

The Israeli regime’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, sent a letter to the UNWTO, insisting that the delegation receive their visas, but the plea did not help the matter.

The development has been taken by analysts as a sign that Israel’s hopes of warming relations with Saudi Arabia may be premature. It also showed that despite reports of diplomatic efforts between Israel and Saudi Arabia and their desire to normalize ties, the reality on the ground seems to be completely different.

In 2020, Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly paid a secret visit to Riyadh in his capacity as then Israeli regime’s prime minister, meeting there with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Riyadh’s refusal to issue visas to the Israeli delegation came a couple of days after the kingdom and Iran reached an agreement to resume their diplomatic relations through a deal mediated by China.

The thawing of relations between Tehran and Riyadh has irked numerous current and former Israeli officials, who have frowned on the matter as a fatal blow to Tel Aviv’s regional schemes and sphere of influence.

Following the agreement, a US media report said the détente between Iran and Saudi Arabia has dealt a heavy blow to Netanyahu, who had sought a fearmongering campaign against Tehran’s nuclear program and the Islamic Republic’s clout in West Asia.

The Associated Press’ report said the agreement, which gives Iran and Saudi Arabia two months to reopen their respective embassies and re-establish ties after seven years of estrangement, is one of the most “striking shifts” in Middle Eastern diplomacy over recent years and has caused “disappointment” and “finger-pointing” in Israeli political circles.

The report added that while Netanyahu had made foreign policy boasts about the US-brokered so-called normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan in 2020, and advertised them as part of a wider push to stand up against Iran’s influence in the region, Saudi Arabia’s decision to engage with Iran has “thrown cold water on those ambitions.”

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