Riyadh: In a publicly first, a high-level Israeli delegation entered Saudi Arabia on official visa Sunday for a meeting organized by UNESCO in Riyadh.
A day later, the 5-member Israeli delegation led by Amir Weissbrod, Deputy Director General at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs was seen in the UNESCO meeting hall.
"We are happy to be here - it's a good first step," an Israeli official told AFP. "We thank UNESCO and the Saudi authorities."
This is the first time an Israeli delegation is visiting the Kingdom on a publicly announced visit, though there were claims of “secret visits” to the Kingdom by Israeli officials. Saudi Arabia had denied all these reports as mere speculations.
Israel is not a member of UNESCO as it had resigned from the United Nations’ cultural arm back in 2019 accusing it to be biased against the country.
Israeli delegation therefore attended the UNESCO World Heritage Conference in Riyadh as observers.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic ties, and the relation between the two ceases to normalise because of the Palestine issue.
It was reported ahead of the UNESCO World Heritage committee session in the Saudi capital that the Kingdom had refused the visa to the Israeli delegation.
Riyadh however had no choice as it had signed in July 2023 an agreement to allow all member states to visit the Kingdom without any obstacles.
The Israeli delegation’s visit to the Kingdom for UNESCO World Heritage Conference is being portrayed as a “big deal” and a sign that “Saudi Arabia opening its doors for the Israeli delegation means the Kingdom is closer to normalise the ties between the two countries”.
There were speculations that Saudi Arabia and Israel will announce diplomatic relations after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain embraced the Jewish State. The United States (U.S.A.) reportedly also is exerting pressure on the Kingdom.
The Kingdom however has made it clear that fair solution of the Palestine issue is the key to diplomatic ties with Israel.
Meanwhile, the political observes do not see much in the ongoing visit by the Israeli delegation to Israel.
“The Israelis will definitely milk this as the first step, when it was actually facilitated by UNESCO, and not because of their diplomatic skills or diplomatic victories”, Saudi Analyst who is expert on bilateral relationships, Aziz Alghashian, said.
For all the latest News, Opinions and Views, download ummid.com App.
Select Language To Read in Urdu, Hindi, Marathi or Arabic.