FIFA hosts Israeli, Palestinian football leaders for talks

Chairman of panel set up following international scuffle says he believes both sides seek to ‘promote dialogue’

Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub addresses the FIFA Congress on May 29, 2015 (screen capture: FIFA)
Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub addresses the FIFA Congress on May 29, 2015 (screen capture: FIFA)

ZURICH — A FIFA panel aiming to improve Israeli-Palestinian football relations met for the first time Wednesday and agreed a follow-up session in the Middle East next month.

Panel chairman Tokyo Sexwale, a South African businessman, hosted the two football federations’ leaders, FIFA said in a statement.

Sexwale, who some football officials want to be a FIFA presidential candidate, was appointed in May after Palestinians dropped a request for the FIFA Congress to vote on suspending Israel.

“I’m feeling confident after seeing the team spirit today, as both associations have confirmed their intention to promote dialogue,” Sexwale said in a statement. “As we have witnessed in my home country South Africa, I’m convinced that here too we’ll bring people together through the power of sport.”

The latest FIFA efforts revive a process which began in 2013 and stalled this year.

Palestinians have long claimed that Israeli security restrictions limit movement of their players, visiting teams and football equipment. Israeli football officials have said that political decisions are beyond their control.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to press the issue in May, in his final overseas trip before winning re-election.

On Wednesday, FIFA published a photograph of Blatter and Sexwale shaking hands with the two football federation presidents.

“I’m very happy to start the process towards finding solutions,” Palestinian football leader Jibril Rajoub said in the FIFA statement.

Israeli federation president Ofer Eini said that “both Mr. Rajoub and I want fair conditions for our footballers.”

FIFA said the panel planned to meet in the Middle East in September.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

Most Popular
read more: