Israeli, Palestinian liaison to help ease travel - FIFA

REUTERS - The Israeli and Palestinian Football Associations will each appoint a liaison officer to facilitate the movement of players in and out of the Palestinian territories, world soccer's governing body FIFA said on Monday.

Israeli FA head Avi Luzon, and his Palestinian counterpart, Jibril Rajoub, met in Zurich on Monday in a session chaired by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. He has pledged to help ease travel restrictions imposed by Israel, which cites security concerns.

"Both associations agreed (to)...the appointment of two liaison officers between the two federations to the relevant authorities on each side, who shall report to FIFA in order to facilitate the movement of persons and goods," FIFA said.

Palestinians say that Israel's security forces, who control movement between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, frequently prevent athletes travelling freely between the two separated territories.

Luzon said in a statement that the Israeli liaison official would be in regular contact with the military to help ease the situation.

"With the great help of the Coordinator of Activities in the territories, Major-General Eitan Dangot, who is aiding us in the whole process, we will do all we can for there to be proper sporing activity in the West Bank," Luzon said.

As a full member of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, the Palestinian FA has started to hold more regional tournaments but complains that Israel has also stopped athletes from third countries entering the West Bank.

Israel and the Palestinians resumed U.S.-brokered peace talks after a three-year breakdown last month, although neither side has expressed great optimism for a major breakthrough.

Rajoub raised the issue of the travel of Palestinian athletes at the last FIFA Congress in Mauritius in June when he said that if the matter was not resolved satisfactorily, he would call on delegates at the next Congress to expel Israel.

The 64th FIFA Congress takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 10-11 next year.

Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has self-rule in some areas of the West Bank but Israel retains overall military control of the territory and can impose travel restrictions on those wishing to enter or leave.

The Gaza Strip, from which militants have fired thousands of rockets and mortar bombs into the Jewish state in recent years, is ruled by the Islamist Hamas faction which calls for Israel's destruction.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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