ZURICH (AP) — FIFA President Sepp Blatter hopes to have a solution by the end of the year to the problem of Israeli security restrictions affecting Palestinian football, after holding talks with the two sides on Tuesday.
Blatter said after hosting the leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian football associations that they agreed to send delegates to a follow-up meeting this month to specify an "inventory" of problems between them.
The main issue is restricted movement into and out of the West Bank and Gaza for players and officials from Palestinian and visiting teams.
"As I am an optimist, at the end of the year we will have found a solution and will present the solution to the political authorities," said Blatter, who was told in July by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that national security was his country's top priority.
"Security means also that there shall be solutions that people can come in and go out because Palestine has the right to play in FIFA competitions or Asian competitions," Blatter said.
FIFA recognizes Palestine as a national team but Israel's denial of travel visas to players and officials forced the side to forfeit its place in qualification for the 2010 World Cup, and the issue flared again last month when teams from Iraq, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates struggled to arrive for a Palestinian-hosted youth tournament.
That impasse prompted Palestinian federation president Jibril Rajoub to demand that FIFA suspend the Israeli association and its teams from international football.
Rajoub and Israeli football president Avi Luzon spoke together for the first time Tuesday, Blatter said, acknowledging that the session at FIFA headquarters had a "lively" start.
"Both of the presidents wanted to express a little bit what they had on their heart," Blatter said. "I cannot say any more (about that), but at the end it was trust, confidence and football."
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