Israeli delegation makes first open visit to Saudi Arabia

Published On: September 11, 2023 03:52 PM NPT By: AFP/RSS

RIYADH, Sept 11 : An Israeli delegation is in Riyadh for a UNESCO meeting, an Israeli official told AFP on Monday, marking the country's first publicly announced visit to Saudi Arabia. The visit, for UNESCO's World Heritage Committee session, coincides with speculation about a potential normalization of ties between the two countries in future.

"We are happy to be here -- it's a good first step," an Israeli official who did not want to be named, given the sensitivities of the visit, told AFP during the meeting.

"We thank UNESCO and the Saudi authorities."

The five-member delegation travelled through Dubai, the official said, as there are no direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia. They received their visas via UNESCO, the United Nations' educational, scientific and cultural organization, and arrived on Sunday. The delegation, including a security official, joined the UNESCO meeting on Monday, sitting behind a sign that said "Israel" on the front of their desk.

The visit has been "very good -- they treat us very well", the official said.

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and did not join the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords that saw Israel establish ties with two of the kingdom's neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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