Israeli delegation attends UNESCO summit in Saudi Arabia for first time

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As Washington presses for a full normalization of relations, an Israeli delegation attended a global UNESCO meeting in Riyadh on Monday, providing yet another sign that Saudi Arabia is warming up to Israel.

During the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, a Reuters witness observed three Israeli officials sitting in Israel’s chairs.

The team was led by the chairman of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Eli Escusido, and included representatives from Israel’s ambassador to UN organizations in Paris and the deputy director general for international organizations of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

One of the conditions for holding the international conference was Saudi Arabia’s promise to allow the Israeli delegation entry into the country.

The US has long pushed Saudi Arabia, a staunch ally, to normalize relations with Israel, which would be its biggest diplomatic victory in the region and follow similar deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco (together known as the Abraham Accords).

According to Reuters, the nation defied US pressure and tied the action to other demands, including the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

The 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is now taking place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It started on Sunday and will last until September 25.

The committee selects which sites are included in the World Heritage List and oversees their conservation.

Israel announced its withdrawal from UNESCO in 2017, accusing the organization of prejudice and downplaying its significance to the Holy Land, which approximately corresponds to the contemporary State of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Israel is still a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, nonetheless.