ZURICH: FIFA hopes to find a solution by the end of the year to Palestinian complaints about Israeli restrictions on the movement of soccer players and officials, the body’s president Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday.
Blatter spoke after what he described as a “lively” and “historic” first meeting of the task force set up to deal with the dispute, attended by Israeli FA chairman Avi Luzon and his Palestinian counterpart Jibril Rajoub.
“At the start, I have to say it was very lively, I will not say any more, but at the end it was trust, and confidence, and football,” Blatter told reporters at FIFA headquarters.
“We have given responsibility to the two associations to work together but we will monitor the different steps (stages),” he said.
“The idea is that, at the end of the year, when we come together at the FIFA executive committee, we will have a solution of how to make it easier for footballers to move in the region.
“We can say today was historic…it was the first time the two presidents spoke with each other, otherwise, even when they were at the FIFA Congress, they just looked at each other and moved away.”
Palestinians say that Israel’s security forces, who control movement between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, frequently prevent athletes traveling freely between the two separated territories.
As a full member of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, the Palestinian FA has started to hold more regional tournaments but complains that Israelis are stopping athletes from third countries entering the West Bank.
At the FIFA Congress in June, Rajoub called for sanctions against the Israeli FA if the situation did not improve, and compared Israel’s behavior to bullying. Luzon, meanwhile, said no Palestinian travel requests had been rejected this year and that he did not understand what the problem was.