To attend a U.N. conference, an Israeli delegation arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. In the first formal visit by government representatives to the kingdom, a symposium on world heritage sites was held, according to an Israeli official. Eli Escusido, the chairman of Israel’s Antiquities Authority, is leading the delegation, which also includes diplomats, the official added.
It was unclear whether they would meet with Saudi officials because this is not a bilateral visit.
The official talked to the media under the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to do so. Israel participated in a video game competition earlier this year in Saudi Arabia, the official stated.
The trip coincides with Washington’s efforts to mediate the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, two countries that are said to have been secretly forging relationships in recent years due to a shared mistrust of Iran.
Although it faces many obstacles, a formal agreement would be a significant step toward integrating Israel into the larger region.
The most right-wing government in Israel’s history finds it difficult to agree to the Saudis’ demands for major progress in resolving the dispute with the Palestinians, U.S. defense assurances, and assistance in creating a civilian nuclear program.
The Saudi capital of Riyadh is hosting the 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee from Sunday through September 25. The committee oversees the conservation of the sites and chooses which ones get on the World Heritage List.
In 2017, Israel declared its withdrawal from UNESCO, claiming the organization was biased against it and downplayed its historical ties to the Holy Land. Israel, however, is still a signatory to the World Heritage Convention.
Saudi Arabia has been creating and promoting its own historical landmarks in recent years as it works to become a top tourism and investment destination.