Checkmate: Saudis refuse visas to Israel's Chess Federation
Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Israel's chess governing body is seeking compensation from the organizers of an international chess competition in Saudi Arabia after its players were denied visas to participate in the tournament.

The King Salman World Chess Championships Blitz & Rapid which runs from December 26 to 30 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, would have united the best chess players from all over the world, had it not been a visa snub which precluded Israeli participants from entering.

The two Middle East countries do not have any diplomatic and economic ties, as Saudi Arabia along with many other Arab countries doesn't recognize Israel as a state.

Spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in the US Fatimah Baeshen explained Saudi's stance on the issue by saying that "the Kingdom has allowed the participation of all citizens. The exception is whereby the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has historically not had diplomatic ties with a specific country-thus has maintained its policy."

Israel Chess Federation spokesman Lior Aizenberg has accused Saudi Arabia of undermining the World Chess Federation's (FIDE) basic principles which state that no player should be refused participation in events.

He also noted that Israeli players who were denied entry to the kingdom "were professionally and financially damaged."

The Israel Chess Federation insists that FIDE should safeguard the rights of its athletes and prevent similar incidents in the future. "Every country hosting an international event will commit to hosting Israeli chess players, even if it's an Arab state" Aizenberg said.

He also called on the chess governing body to cancel all the events which are scheduled to take place in Arab countries over the next two years to exclude the potential threat of discriminating against Israeli competitors.

The Saudis had initially refused to issue visas to Israel, Iran and Qatar over escalating political tensions in the region. FIDE managed to secure entrance to Saudi Arabia for players representing Iran and Qatar, failing, however, to reach any progress in resolving the Israel visa ban.

"Ground-breaking special arrangements have been made to issue visas upon arrival for over 200 persons, including the players of Iran and Qatar," FIDE said in a statement.

"Although the visa process lies exclusively with the national immigration authorities of every country, FIDE has actively supported and proposed measures to make the process as smooth as ever, especially taking into account the very short time available for preparing the championships," it added.

The long-running tensions between Israel and Arab states have rekindled over the latest dispute regarding Jerusalem's status in Israel.


Latest News