Israeli delegation attends UN heritage conference in Saudi Arabia in first public visit by officials

AP , Sunday 10 Sep 2023

An Israeli delegation arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to attend a U.N. conference on world heritage sites, in the first public visit by government officials to the kingdom, an Israeli official said.

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FILE - The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization logo is pictured on the entrance at UNESCO s headquarters in Paris, Oct. 17, 2016. AP


The delegation is led by the head of Israel's Antiquities Authority and includes diplomats, the official said. It is not a bilateral visit, and it was unclear whether they would meet with Saudi officials.

The official was not authorized to discuss the matter with media and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official noted that Israel took part in a video game competition in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

The visit comes as Washington is pushing to broker normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which are believed to have quietly cultivated ties in recent years over their shared suspicion of Iran. A formal agreement would be a historic step toward integrating Israel into the wider region, but it faces major challenges.

The Saudis are reportedly demanding major progress on resolving the conflict with the Palestinians — a hard sell for the most right-wing government in Israel's history — as well as U.S. defense guarantees and aid in establishing a civilian nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia is hosting the 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which begins Sunday and runs until Sept. 25.

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