Araweelo News Network

The file photo shows a view of the Saudi capital city of Riyadh

Tel-Aviv(ANN)-Seven Israeli chess players have applied for visas to participate in a tournament in Saudi Arabia amid reports of Tel-Aviv-Riyadh efforts to normalize ties.

The visa requests by the seven Israeli chess players — five men and two women — have been submitted to the Saudi organizers and “the visa status is currently pending,” deputy president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) Georgios Makropoulos said in a Tuesday statement.

“We are making a huge effort to assure that all players get their visas,” the statement added.

Spokesman for the Israeli chess federation Lior Aizenberg expressed support for FIDE’s policy to hold the tournament in Saudi on December 26-30 “alongside FIDE’s commitment to ensure the participation of Israelis would not be subject to limitations.”

“We expect the Saudis, aided by FIDE, to approve our requests for visas to play,” he said.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman also said that he did not foresee a problem for the Israelis to take part in the tournament in Saudi Arabia  if the visas are issued.

The possible presence of the Israeli chess players in Saudi Arabia would be an unprecedented development as Riyadh and Tel Aviv have had no official relations so far.

In recent years, there have been numerous reports of behind-the-scenes contacts between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia, along with other Arab League states, does not formally recognize the occupying entity.

Affected by succession plans and the failure of the aggressive policies of the Riyadh regime, Saudi has engaged in a process of normalizing relations with Israel.

Amid reports that Saudi King Salman seeks to relinquish power in favor of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, informed sources say bin Salman plans to shift his main focus to Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement by seeking assistance from the Israeli military after he ascends to the throne.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attendz the first meeting of the defense ministers of the 41-member Saudi-led military alliance in the capital Riyadh on November 26, 2017. (AFP photo)

Recent leaks suggest that Saudi Arabia plans to surrender the Palestinian right of return in exchange for putting East Jerusalem al-Quds under international sovereignty as part of a Saudi-Israel peace deal.

According to a Western source close to Saudi princes, normalization of ties with Israel was a key factor behind the recent purge of dozens of Saudi princes and elite under the pretext of fighting corruption in the kingdom.

The source said that Mohammed bin Salman arrested the people who were acting as “gatekeepers for Saudi funding” going to Israel, in an attempt to keep a monopoly of contacts with Tel Aviv for himself.

In September, Israeli and Arab media reported that a Saudi prince had traveled to Israel and had held consultations with senior Israeli officials over “regional peace.”

A month later, an Israeli official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP Arabic that Mohammed bin Salman had in fact been the prince who visited Israel in September.

Back in June, The Times cited unnamed Arab and American sources as saying that Tel Aviv and Riyadh were in clandestine talks to establish official economic ties for the first time since the entity was created.