Saudi Arabia 'to allow Israeli attendance at UNESCO meeting in Riyadh'

Saudi Arabia 'to allow Israeli attendance at UNESCO meeting in Riyadh'
The US has been keen for Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalise ties, but so far Riyadh has resisted.
2 min read
21 July, 2023
UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay confirmed the agreement with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Paris [Getty]

Saudi Arabia is set to allow Israeli representatives into the country to attend a UNESCO conference in Riyadh this September, according to reports.

Saudi Arabia had initially refused to allow Israeli participation in the conference, refusing to sign the "host country agreement" needed for the conference to go ahead.

UNESCO’s 45 session of World Heritage Committee is planned for 10-25 September, with the "host country agreement" allowing free access for all member states to attend.

According to Axios the director-general for UNESCO Audrey Azoulay spoke to Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen during a meeting in Paris confirming the agreement, whilst also mentioning that she would follow the issue closely.

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Negotiations between UNESCO and Saudi Arabia ensured the change in policy and invitations for the conference are likely to be sent to all members, including Israel, in the coming days.

Saudi Arabia previously prevented Israeli officials from entering the country for other international conferences, such as the Israeli delegation to the UN’s World Tourism Organization conference held earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia has no official diplomatic relations with Israel, however, it did allow the Israeli eFootball team to participate in the FIFAe World Cup held in Riyadh this week.

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Normalisation between Saudi Arabia and Israel has been a difficult issue, with Riyadh telling the Biden administration that a Palestinian state must be established first.

It also reportedly wants security guarantees from Washington and support for a civilian nuclear programme.

President Biden recently stated that the US was "a little way off" regarding Saudi security and nuclear energy requests.

The New Arab reached out to UNESCO and the Saudi Embassy in the UK for comment on the agreement, but received no response by the time of publication.