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Israelis, Palestinians to fly together on joint charter flights for FIFA World Cup

Israelis, Palestinians to fly together on joint charter flights for FIFA World Cup

Doha (Qatar),  Numerous attempts to resolve the enduring Israel-Palestine conflict have fallen flat over the last few decades. Now FIFA, the football governing body, has stepped in and is trying to use football's unifying power and this month's World Cup in Qatar as a platform to improve relations between the two neighbours.

FIFA has announced on Thursday that Israelis and Palestinians will fly together on joint charter flights from Israel to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup, marking the first direct flights from Tel Aviv to Doha in history.

Israel and Qatar do not have diplomatic relations, but Israel did announce earlier this year that Israeli citizens would be able to enter Qatar for the World Cup.

"We are delighted that an agreement has been reached for Israeli and Palestinian fans to visit Qatar and attend matches during the FIFA World Cup. With this deal, Israelis and Palestinians will be able to fly together and enjoy football together," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said.

The football showpiece event takes place from November 20 to December 18 and is the first one to be held in the Middle East and in the Arab world.

"Football has the power to bring people together, it transcends all boundaries, crosses all borders, and fosters unity like nothing else. The World Cup is the ultimate symbol of football's unifying power, and today's historic announcement provides a platform to improve relations across the Middle East," said the football chief while thanking Israeli, Palestinian and Qatari counterparts for 'helping to make this happen'.

Various attempts have been made to resolve the conflict as part of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, alongside other efforts to resolve the broader conflict but has not yielded any positive results.
"Direct charter flights will be temporarily operated between Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and Hamad International Airport in Doha by an airline with existing landing rights in Qatar for the duration of the FIFA World Cup, subject to Israel's security requirements and operational capabilities. More details will be announced in due course.," FIFA has announced.

Visitors will need a registered Hayya, the fan ID required for entry into Qatar during the tournament and have a valid flight ticket to travel to and from Qatar.

Consular services for Israeli citizens will be provided in coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a designated privately-operated international travel company based in Doha.

Palestinians will have access to consular services at the Palestinian embassy in Doha, it further added.
Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alon Ushpiz, welcomed the announcement: "Today's announcement will allow Israeli citizens to freely travel to Qatar and attend matches at the World Cup."

"We have successfully secured all guarantees, including access to consular services for Israelis during their stay in Qatar. As the first World Cup ever hosted in the Middle East, it promises to be a celebration of football and an opportunity for Israelis to build connections and share cultural experiences with people from across our region and the wider world."

A spokesperson for the Supreme Committee, the organisers of the World Cup, stated that the announcement illustrates Qatar's commitment to "respecting FIFA's policies and hosting requirements including the right of everyone to attend matches."

"This also includes the requirement that Palestinian ticket holders and media are able to travel on these chartered flights with no restrictions as they have an equal right to enjoy the tournament, which is made extra special by it being the first World Cup to be hosted in the Arab and Muslim world. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is on course to leave a positive legacy on Qatar, the Middle East and the Arab world, and with 2.9 million of the three million tickets now sold, we look forward to welcoming fans from around the globe."

It is estimated that tens of thousands of Israelis will travel to the World Cup in Qatar.

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