Rogge invites Israelis, Palestinians for talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday promised

to consider ways of easing travel restrictions on Palestinian

athletes, as IOC President Jacques Rogge invited sports officials

of both sides to meet at its headquarters in Europe.

Rogge expressed concern over ”obstacles” facing Palestinian

athletes and urged Israel to grant them free movement. Palestinian

officials say Israel routinely hinders the movement of athletes,

particularly those from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Israel denies the accusations.

During a news conference in Tel Aviv on the final day of a

four-day visit, Rogge invited representatives to meet at IOC

headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss cooperation.

”We will study ways of improving the traveling from one country

to another and hopefully we will find a quick solution,” Rogge

said at the Olympic Committee of Israel headquarters.

”Palestinian athletes have difficulties in traveling, coming to

participate in national matches or being allowed to travel from

Gaza to Ramallah,” Rogge said. It’s just one example. There are

obstacles. We understand that there are security measures to be

respected and that is very important, but we have pleaded to have a

relaxation or facilitating these travels.”

Earlier Thursday, Netanyahu spoke by phone with Rogge and

promised to explore ways of easing the travel of Palestinian

athletes. Israel says it does not target athletes specifically, but

sometimes raises concerns about individuals.

Rogge also pledged support for Israeli athletes boycotted in

international competitions.

”I have made it also very clear that the IOC will always

support Israeli athletes who are prevented from participating in

some international competitions,” he said.

Rogge’s Mideast visit included meetings with Palestinian and

Israeli leaders and top sport officials. He also made a trip to

Jordan to meet local Olympic officials.

”I have found also a great desire to promote sport but also to

promote peace and this is something that is really very, very

important to us,” he said.