FIFA seeks 'solution' to travel restrictions on Palestinian soccer players

International soccer association president Sepp Blatter to meet with Netanyahu on Tuesday following Ramallah trip.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas (R) receives a gift from FIFA President Sepp Blatter in Ramallah May 26, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas (R) receives a gift from FIFA President Sepp Blatter in Ramallah May 26, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub on Monday, ahead of next month's FIFA Congress - when Palestinians said they will urge delegates to take sanctions against Israel.
Palestinians say Israeli security forces, who control movement between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, frequently prevent athletes from traveling freely between the two separated territories.
Israel cites security concerns but says it has eased travel for athletes between Palestinian territories.
"Unfortunately, Israel places hurdles on this activity, which we are supposed to exercise freely," Abbas said during a meeting with Blatter in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"At a time when we consider ourselves to be active FIFA members, we see that Israel, the government of Israel, tries to place these hurdles in the path of our activities," he added.
Blatter, who is due to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and head of the Israeli FA on Tuesday, said that he would work towards finding a "solution" to Palestinians' demands.
"We shall try, we shall find a solution - a solution that sport, is not politics, but sport, in this case can help to solve the problem and if we are able to solve this problem it could be also a good, let's say step, to solve other problems that you have in this region," he said during the meeting with Abbas.
In a news conference, Blatter said he is hoping he would be able to improve the situation before the FIFA Congress.
"Let's hope that tomorrow I can give you some positive information. Before we come to the Congress we will have a situation that will let's say give to the Palestinian football and to the visitors of the Palestinian football, I would say, a good future," he said.
The FIFA Congress is scheduled to be held in Sao Paulo on June 9-10, just before the start of the World Cup in Brazil.
Palestinians have said a Task Force established by FIFA President Sepp Blatter last year that included both nations and representatives from UEFA, Israel's European confederation and the AFC, Palestine's Asian confederation, had failed to implement any real change or improvement on the main issues of freedom of movement and access for Palestinian athletes.
Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestine FA and also head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, said that they would press ahead with demanding sanctions if Blatter fails to convince Israel to lift the restrictions on the travel and movement of Palestinian athletes.
"We hope and pray that your mission will succeed. And that you will be able to convince the Israeli authorities to make that recognition. Else, the Palestine Football Association will have no other option but to ask the FIFA Congress to ask for sanctions against the Israeli FA," he said.