FIFA announced on Thursday that shared flights have been arranged for Israeli and Palestinian fans to travel to Qatar to attend the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The temporary direct charter flights between Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, represent the only official direct flights between the two nations.
The meetings that organized the flights brought together representatives of FIFA, the operational arm of the 2022 World Cup tournament delivery team, and Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Culture and Sports. FIFA’s press release noted that “the meeting was held in line with Qatar’s commitment to FIFA’s hosting requirements.”
In FIFA’s press release, the organisation’s president, Gianni Infantino, said: “We are delighted that an agreement has been reached for Israeli and Palestinian fans to travel to Qatar and attend FIFA matches. Football World Cup. With this agreement, Israelis and Palestinians will be able to fly together and enjoy football together. »
A spokesperson for the Qatar 2022 Organizing Committee said in the statement: “Since we secured the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we have always said that all ticket holders will be able to attend. at matches in Qatar. Today’s announcement illustrates our commitment to comply with FIFA policies and accommodation requirements, including everyone’s right to attend matches.
“This also includes the requirement that Palestinian ticket holders and the media can travel on these charter flights without restrictions as they have an equal right to enjoy the tournament, which is made even more special by the fact that it is of the first World Cup to be organized in the Arab and Muslim world.
Qatar does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, but a temporary consular office will be set up during the tournament to handle Israeli visitors.
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Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz said: “Today’s announcement will allow Israeli citizens to travel freely to Qatar and attend World Cup matches. We managed to obtain all the guarantees, including access to consular services for Israelis during their stay in Qatar.
Two Gulf Arab states neighboring Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, signed historic normalization agreements with Israel in 2020, but despite direct flights for the World Cup, a Qatari official told CNN that the position of the countries on standardization “has not changed”.
“Qatar’s position remains firmly linked to the settlement of the Palestinian issue, including a two-state solution in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. Lately, we have not seen any positive development in the peace process that would merit a change in our policy,” the official said.
The Qataris reportedly insisted that Palestinians be allowed to fly from Ben Gurion to Tel Aviv and told Israel that any escalation leading to violence in Jerusalem, Gaza or the West Bank during the World Cup “would risk cancellation of the agreement”. including direct flights,” a source briefed on the matter but not authorized to speak publicly told CNN.
The source added that Qatar’s insistence on allowing Palestinians to leave Ben-Gurion by air stalled the talks “for some time”.
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More than 8,000 Palestinians and 3,800 Israelis bought tickets for the tournament, the source said.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the news and said that after “hard work for many months, we have made it possible for Israeli citizens to travel to the World Cup in Qatar on direct flights, and the opening of an Israeli office in Qatar to provide services to fans coming for the World Cup.
The Qatari official said: “This is part of Qatar’s commitment to FIFA’s hosting requirements, and it shouldn’t be politicized. We have always said that anyone with a ticket for a World Cup match will be allowed to enter Qatar. Thanks to this agreement, the Palestinians will now be able to enjoy the first World Cup in the Arab and Muslim world.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup runs from November 20 to December 18.