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
”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.