World Cup 2022: Israel and Qatar negotiate the opening of a 'temporary office'

The diplomatic representation in Doha would have a limited duration to assist the 10,000 Israeli fans expected for the World Cup. But the 'direct talks' have stalled around the issue of the Palestinians. To date, entry into Qatar is linked to the use of a "non-Israeli" passport. 



Doha (AsiaNews) - Israel and Qatar, the host nation of the upcoming World Cup in November, have engaged in "direct talks" aimed at opening a "temporary" office in Doha, which is to assist Israeli fans during the World Cup.

The aim of the office is to provide 'consular assistance' to their fellow citizens. However, according to reports in the Times of Israel, negotiations between the two countries - which have no official diplomatic relations, but have long had military links - have stalled around the issue of the Palestinians. 

Qatar has asked the Jewish state to also allow Palestinians to travel freely and without restrictions to the football tournament. The talks are still in progress and there is currently no final agreement.

In June, Israel had signed a pact with FIFA, the body that governs world football, to allow its citizens to buy tickets for the tournament and enter Qatar, where they will be admitted for the first time without having to use a 'non-Israeli' passport.

According to the latest estimates, at least 10,000 Israeli fans are expected to arrive. 

In the commitments signed with FIFA at the time of the awarding of the 2022 World Cup, Doha had agreed to welcome and guarantee the same treatment to all nations of the world, without any omission of name or flag.

However, fans in possession of tickets to attend the matches must apply for a card called a 'hayya', the equivalent of an identification document reserved for fans and also used as an entry visa to Qatar. 

Unlike other Gulf nations such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which have signed agreements to normalise relations, Doha has made the opening of official diplomatic channels conditional on the birth of a Palestinian state with full rights.

It is precisely the issue of the Palestinians that, at least for the moment, has caused the negotiations for the opening of a 'provisional' representation during the sports competition to stall.

Doha, in fact, demands that the Palestinians too can move and enter freely to watch the matches and this presupposes the go-ahead from the Israeli authorities to cross the borders with the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. 

Although negotiations have already taken place, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office wanted to deny rumours of direct contact between Yair Lapid and the Qatari leadership on the issue.

However, an official on condition of anonymity made it clear that 'a solution will eventually be found', before the start of the tournament scheduled from 20 November to 18 December. In the past, there was an Israeli diplomatic office in Qatar, which was closed in 2008 following the offensive launched in the Gaza Strip.

Today, although they do not have official relations, Israel and Qatar have strong ties and close security cooperation, and Mossad representatives frequently visit the Arab country, in particular to coordinate the transfer of Qatari aid to Gaza.