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Chess federation vows 'huge effort' to include Israelis in Saudi-hosted match

ATHENS (Reuters) - The World Chess Federation (FIDE) is undertaking a “huge effort” to include Israeli players in a speed chess championship hosted by Saudi Arabia next month, the federation said on Monday.

Seven Israeli players hoping to attend the championship on Dec. 26-30 have submitted visa requests, FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos told Reuters.

Should their visas be granted, it would mark the first time Saudi Arabia has publicly hosted Israelis. Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and there are no formal ties between the two countries.

“We have sent their documents to the organizers and the visa status is currently pending,” Makropoulos said.

“The same applies for many other chess players who are waiting for their visa invitation letters. We are making a huge effort to ensure that all players get their visas.”

Saudi Arabia and Israel both view Iran as a main threat to the Middle East and increased tension between Tehran and Riyadh has fueled speculation that shared interests are bringing Israel and the Saudis closer.

An Israeli cabinet minister made a rare disclosure on Nov. 19 that Israel has had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris and Dan Williams; Editing by Richard Balmforth