'Huge Effort' Underway to Include Israelis in Saudi-hosted Chess Tournament

If visas are issued, this would be the first time that Saudi Arabia publicly hosts Israelis

Israel's Boris Gelfand competes in the FIDE tournament in Moscow, Russia May 30, 2012
AP

The World Chess Federation is undertaking a "huge effort" to include Israeli players in a speed chess championship hosted by Saudi Arabia next month, the federation said on Monday. 

Seven Israeli players hoping to attend the championship on December 26-30 have submitted visa requests, FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos told Reuters. 

Should their visas be granted, it would mark the first time Saudi Arabia has publicly hosted Israelis. Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and there are no formal ties between the two countries

"We have sent their documents to the organizers and the visa status is currently pending," Makropoulos said. 

"The same applies for many other chess players who are waiting for their visa invitation letters. We are making a huge effort to ensure that all players get their visas." 

Saudi Arabia and Israel both view Iran as a main threat to the Middle East and increased tension between Tehran and Riyadh has fueled speculation that shared interests are bringing Israel and the Saudis closer. 

An Israeli cabinet minister made a rare disclosure on November 19 that Israel has had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia.

Two weeks ago, the London-based Saudi newspaper "Elaph" published an unprecedented interview with Israeli military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who called Iran the "real and largest threat to the region." He said Israel and Saudi Arabia are in complete agreement about Iran's intentions and that Israel was willing to share intelligence information with the Saudis.