Sepp Blatter announces Israel gains – but ban threats persist

The Fifa president met the Palestinian President in the West Bank

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The Independent Online

Israel has proposed easing travel restrictions for Palestinian players, according to Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, but the head of the Palestine Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, insisted he would continue to pursue a campaign to have Israel suspended by the world governing body.

After meeting the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and football officials in the West Bank, Blatter said Israel had agreed to the measures.

Similar commitments have been made in the past, but Blatter said this time Israeli officials had “said they will do it”. He hoped the latest agreement would avoid the threat of a suspension vote at a Fifa congress in Zurich on 29 May.

Suspension would mean Israeli teams would not be able to take part in the Champions League and Euro 2016. “I am an optimist,” Blatter said. “We want to bring a solution for now and a solution for the future in order that we don’t need to go to [a vote]. I am on a peace mission.”

The PFA accuses Israel of restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and Israeli-occupied West Bank, while Israel has cited security concerns, an issue that Israel’s FA says is out of its hands.

Blatter met the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Tuesday in an effort to secure concessions.

Meanwhile, the World Cup sponsor Visa has expressed “grave concern” to Fifa over conditions endured by migrant workers building facilities in Qatar, the hosts of the 2022 tournament.

“We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions,” the company said. “We have expressed our grave concern to Fifa and urge them to take all necessary actions to remedy this situation.”

Another sponsor, Coca-Cola, also stated: “We expect Fifa to take these matters seriously.”

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