Ministry Official: Saudi Arabia to Lift Economic Embargo on Israel

No official confirmation from either Riyadh or WTO of Saudi Arabia's reported agreement to cancel embargo.

Saudi Arabia has agreed to lift its economic embargo on Israel so that it can join the World Trade Organization, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said on Tuesday. The decision makes Saudi Arabia the first Arab country to agree to lift the embargo.

There was no official confirmation of Saudi Arabia's reported agreement to cancel the embargo from either Riyadh or the WTO.

The Saudi commitment was an "image achievement that will make it easier for countries around the world to invest in Israel and purchase goods from Israeli companies," the ministry said Tuesday.

Yair Shiran, a ministry official involved in exports, said the Saudi decision could become a model for other Arab countries.

"The Saudi commitment is likely to lead several other countries that are candidates for joining the trade organizations to take a similar step and renounce the embargo in an unequivocal way, and not as a by-product of their participation in the organization," he said.

The Arab countries participating in the embargo refuse to sell or buy goods directly to or from Israel and boycott companies around the world that have trade links with Israel.

The boycott of companies tied to Israel causes more damage than the actual embargo, because it deters international companies from doing business with Israel.

Saudi Arabia's readiness to lift the embargo is a more far-reaching step than those taken by other Arab countries that have joined the WTO, such as Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi agreement came after extensive negotiations between Israel's Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and WTO leaders. The WTO was also subject to American pressure on the matter.