An Israeli delegation attended a meeting of the UNESCO in Riyadh, marking the country’s first publicly announced visit to Saudi Arabiawhile speculation grows about a possible normalization of ties.
The delegation, made up of five members, arrived in Riyadh on Sunday to attend the meeting aimed at updating the list of cultural and historical sites declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCOinformed the AFP an Israeli official.
“We are happy to be here, it is a good first step“, declared the official during the meeting, who did not want to give his name given the sensitivity of the visit. “We thank UNESCO and the Saudi authorities.”
The team traveled through dubaisaid the official, since there are no direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabiaand Sunday arrived.
They received their visas through UNESCO, the educational, scientific and cultural organization of the United Nations.
The delegation, which included a security official, joined the UNESCO meeting on Monday, sitting behind a sign that read “Israel” on the front of your desk.
The visit has been “very good, they treat us very well”declared the official.
The “Israel” sign attracted the attention of the Saudis who were working on the meeting, in which more than 50 sites are contenders for entry onto the coveted world heritage list.
“It is God’s command. The issue is bigger than us and we cannot oppose it”said a young Saudi who worked among support services, when asked about the Israeli delegation.
There are still “obstacles”
Although the visit has no overt political significance, it comes at a time when Rumors of rapprochement between both countries are growing.
According to reports, a palestinian delegation visited Riyadh last week to discuss the way forward if Saudi Arabia and Israel were to formalize their relations.
Saudi Arabiawhich is home to two of the holiest sites in Islam, does not recognize Israel and did not adhere to the 2020 Abraham Accordsnegotiated by the United States, through which Israel established ties with United Arab Emirates and BahrainGulf countries.
Saudi Arabiawhich is trying to reshape and revitalize its oil-dependent economy, has made a series of historic diplomatic moves in recent months, including a surprising approach to Iraneight years after both heavyweights broke ties.
The fact that the visit was coordinated by UNESCO suggests that there remains “obstacles” for the Saudi-Israeli normalizationYes, said Aziz Alghashian, Saudi analyst and expert on the bilateral relationship.
“This is most likely because Saudi Arabia “It is more open to the world, which will include Israelis, and not to bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel,” Alghashian said.
Saudi officials have realized that They cannot ban anyone if they want to transform the kingdom into a global business and tourism center under the crown prince’s Vision 2030 reform agenda Mohammed bin SalmanAlghashian said.
“The Israelis will definitely milk this as the first step, when in fact it was facilitated by UNESCO. “It’s not really because of his diplomatic skill or his diplomatic victories.”
Alghashian compared the visit of the Israeli delegation to the one carried out this summer by Israeli eSports players on the occasion of the Gamers8 festival, which also required “third-party coordination” by global tournament organizers.
(With information from AFP)