Saudi Arabia blocks Israeli FM’s trip to kingdom for UN conference: Report

Saudi Arabia blocks Israeli FM’s trip to kingdom for UN conference: Report

New York (Agencies): Saudi Arabia has effectively obstructed a plan to allow Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to attend a UN conference in the kingdom, after Riyadh would not “seriously discuss” Cohen’s security details, according to a report by AXIOS, a US-based news website, which cited three Israeli officials.

Cohen was set to attend a UN World Tourism Organization conference in the kingdom this week, a trip that would have marked the first public visit by an Israeli minister to Saudi Arabia.

However, when it was time to arrange his security details, it “became clear that the Saudis weren’t going to have a serious discussion,” and Cohen was forced to cancel his trip, the report said.

Cohen was scheduled to attend the event of “Best Tourism Villages” by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) this week, after the UN body included the name of the Circassian village of Kfar Kama in the northern part of the occupied territories on an exclusive list of tourist destinations.

The two-day event is taking place in the northwestern Saudi city of al-‘Ula, which Riyadh is promoting as a tourism hub.

According to Axios, Israel lobbied the UNWTO and US President Joe Biden to press the Saudis to allow Cohen to attend the UN event.

“Eventually the Saudis found a way to say ‘yes’ to the UN as they had to, but at the same time create conditions that won’t allow the visit to happen,” a senior Israeli official told Axios.

Saudi Arabia has also refused to issue entry visas to the Israeli delegation consisting of Kfar Kama’s residents that had been invited to partake in the event.

The move was regarded as a sign that Israel’s hopes of warming relations with Saudi Arabia may be premature.

After seven years, Iran and Saudi Arabia clinched a deal to restore diplomatic relations and re-open embassies, a breakthrough mediated by China.