Israeli chess masters want compensation for Saudi Arabia snub | News | DW | 26.12.2017
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Middle East

Israeli chess masters want compensation for Saudi Arabia snub

Israeli chess officials have urged organizers of the chess tournament to cancel Saudi Arabia's future games. But a Saudi diplomat said its decision was in line with the kingdom's historic relations with Israel.

The Israel Chess Federation (ICF) on Tuesday said it will seek compensation from organizers at the World Chess Federation (FIDE) after Saudi Arabia refused to issue visas for Israeli players in the run-up to a tournament it is hosting this month.

ICF spokesman Lior Aizenberg said seven players who "were professionally and financially damaged" by the row were seeking financial compensation.

Read more: Israel and Saudi Arabia: New best friends in the Middle East?

The Israelis also wanted assurances that FIDE would never allow a host country to prevent its players from participating. "Every country hosting an international event will commit to hosting Israeli chess players, even if it's an Arab state," Aizenberg said.

Aizenberg added that the FIDE should ensure Saudi Arabia's events in 2018 and 2019 are "immediately cancelled." Tensions in the region have been notably high since US President Donald Trump unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

No diplomatic ties

A Saudi diplomat said the decision to not issue visas for Israeli players was in line with Riyadh's historic relations with Israel.

"Related to the purported politicization of the international chess tournament hosted by Riyadh: the kingdom has allowed the participation of all citizens," said Fatimah Baeshen, spokesperson for the Saudi embassy in the US.

"The exception is whereby KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) has historically not had diplomatic ties with a specific country, (and) thus has maintained its policy."

Israeli players have played in other predominantly-Muslim countries, including at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan

Israeli players have played in other predominantly-Muslim countries, including at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan

'First for any sporting event'

If Saudi Arabia had issued visas for the Israeli players, it would have marked the first time the kingdom hosted Israelis since it does not maintain diplomatic relations with the country.

However, FIDE said the competition, the first of its kind in the kingdom, also enjoyed another first.

Read more: Saudi Arabia to launch tourist visas next year

"After the historical agreement with the organizers, there is no need for female players to wear a hijab or abaya during the games or in the hotel, which is a first for any sporting event in Saudi Arabia," FIDE said in a press release.

Observers have suggested that Saudi Arabia is modernizing under a sweeping plan for change implemented by Saudi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

ls/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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