Blatter heads to Palestine for talks travel restrictions

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FIFA president Sepp Blatter will head for the Middle East on Saturday to try to end Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinian soccer players.

Blatter said in an interview on FIFA’s website (fifa.com) that he would meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and then visit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in what he said would be the “most delicate” part of his mission.

He will also meet the heads of the respective football federations, as well as visiting football development projects in both countries and a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.

“It is a mixed trip with footballing projects, and it is especially a political and diplomatic mission and I hope I have good news when I come back,” said Blatter.

Palestinians are angry that Israel’s security forces, who control movement between Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, frequently prevent athletes from travelling freely between the two areas.

Israel cites security concerns but says it has eased travel for athletes between the Palestinian territories.

Other nationalities have also been affected. Recently two teenagers from Myanmar were stuck in Jordan for a week awaiting clearance so they could play in an under-17 tournament before eventually being granted access to the Palestinian territories.

The Palestine FA became a FIFA member in 1998, a move that was also supported by Israel’s FA. Palestine were knocked out of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers after losing 3-2 to Thailand in a two-leg tie, having previously beaten Afghanistan.

Both home matches were played in the Palestinian territories.

Earlier this week, Blatter returned from the Confederations Cup in Brazil where FIFA was among various targets of nationwide protests sweeping the country.