Israeli, Palestinian delegations to meet

Updated: July 8, 2011, 2:54 PM ET
Associated Press

DURBAN, South Africa -- Israeli Olympic officials will travel to the West Bank for the next round of talks with their Palestinian counterparts on improving cooperation.

Pere Miro, the IOC's director of national Olympic committee relations, said Friday that an Israeli delegation has agreed to meet in Ramallah, calling it an "extraordinary precedent."

It is highly unusual for Israeli officials to go to Ramallah.

Israeli and Palestinian Olympic officials have met twice this year in Lausanne, Switzerland, in talks brokered by the International Olympic Committee.

Palestinian Olympic officials are seeking free movement for athletes, coaches and sports equipment in and out of the West Bank.

In the previous round of talks in May, both parties agreed on the principle of lifting travel restrictions, "taking into account the security issues in the region."

Israel and the Palestinians also want entry to the 2013 Mediterranean Games in Turkey.

The IOC has promised increased funding from its Olympic Solidarity program to help more Palestinian athletes prepare for the London Games, with additional help from Israeli coaches and facilities.

Meanwhile, the IOC on Friday withdrew its recognition of the national Olympic committee of the Netherlands Antilles, a territory of five islands in the Caribbean that was dissolved as a political entity in 2010.

However, the IOC agreed to allow athletes from the region to compete under the Olympic flag in London. Four athletes from the Netherlands Antilles competed at the 2008 Beijing Games, including sprinter Churandy Martina.

Martina crossed the line in second place behind Usain Bolt in the 200 meters but was disqualified for a lane violation.

Miro said athletes from the Netherlands Antilles also could choose to compete for either the Netherlands or Aruba.

Miro also said the IOC was on track to lift the suspension it imposed on Ghana's Olympic committee in January because of government interference.

Ghana sent about a dozen athletes to the Beijing Games, and its youth soccer teams are among the best in the world. Ghana is the reigning under-20 world champion.

Miro said Kuwait's Olympic committee will remain suspended because of government interference. The suspension has been in effect since 2010.

He said the IOC is still monitoring issues of government interference in India, Gambia, Panama, Nepal, Afghanistan and Venezuela, although no sanctions have been taken.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press