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Israeli tourism minister becomes first to make public visit to Saudi Arabia

Haim Katz arrives in Riyadh for UN summit amid normalisation efforts between Saudi Arabia and Israel
Israel’s tourism minister, Haim Katz, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday
Israel’s tourism minister, Haim Katz, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday (Screengrab/X)

Israel’s tourism minister, Haim Katz, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to attend the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference, marking the first time an Israeli minister has formally visited Saudi Arabia.

Katz will be in Riyadh for two days, with his office reporting him as saying that “tourism is a bridge between nations”.

“I will work to advance cooperation, tourism and the foreign relations of Israel,” he said. 

He also issued a statement saying that this marks the beginning of future collaborations. 

"I will work to create collaborations to promote tourism and Israel's foreign relations," the statement read. 

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The minister is set to take part in a number of events and discussions at the conference, and meet with other ministers coming from different countries across the Middle East.

Katz has been working to strengthen Israel's position within the WTO after the state was elected to an official position in the UN organisation for the first time. 

Saudi delegation arrives in occupied West Bank

The visit comes as a Saudi delegation arrived in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday in a visit aimed at easing potential Palestinian objections to any normalisation deal between Riyadh and Israel. 

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Jordan, Nayef al-Sudairi, who also serves Palestine, said the kingdom is "working towards establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital". 

Sudairi met with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, according to the foreign ministry in Ramallah. He will also be meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

Last year, Saudi Arabia also announced that it had opened its airspace to all civilian overflights just hours before Joe Biden became the first US president to directly fly from Israel to the kingdom.

At the time, Biden hailed the Saudi move as a “historic decision” and credited his administration with helping to bring the deal about. 

Before the announcement, Saudi Arabia had barred overflights from both Israeli and non-Israeli companies that were travelling to or from Israel.

The move was one amidst a flurry of overtures between the two states. Leaders of both have made public comments expressing their optimism that a deal is within reach.

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