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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Israel and Palestinians Agree to Ease Travel of Palestinian Athletes


Israeli and Palestinian sports officials have agreed to set up telephone hotline to ease the movement of Palestinian athletes, coaches, and officials.

The agreement was reached during a meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian national Olympic committees at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters Switzerland.

The agreement is particularly important for Palestinian soccer. The Palestinian soccer team has been hampered because its Gaza-based players are more often not barred from travelling to the West Bank for training and matches. Members of the team have also been stopped by the Israelis from travelling abroad for international competitions.

The hotline is intended for among others when a Palestinian athlete is stopped at an Israeli security checkpoint on his or her way to a competition. It will allow the Israeli Olympic Committee to intervene and help ease the athlete’s passage.

The agreement was announced on the eve of FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s visit this weekend to Israel and Palestine.

The hotline was an attempt to separate sports from politics according to Jibril Rajou, the president of both the Palestinian Olympic Committee and the Palestinian Football Association. “Politics has nothing to do with sport,” Jibril said.

A statement by the IOC said that the Israeli committee would also present a plan to the Israeli government that would ensure safe passage for Palestinian athletes through Israel.

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