UAE denies visa to Israeli tennis player
Dubai, February 15, 2009
The United Arab Emirates has refused to grant a visa to Israeli player Shahar Peer to take part in a $2 million tennis tournament in Dubai this week, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Tour said.
"We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the United Arab Emirates denying Shahar Peer a visa that would permit her to enter the country to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships," WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said.
The board of directors will now meet to discuss the future of the Dubai tournament. WTA rules insist that any player should be allowed to play at any event on the tour.
The Dubai Tennis Championship is one of the WTA Tour's most prestigious events and this week features every player from the world's top 10 except the injured Nadia Petrova.
But like most Arab countries, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state and Israelis are routinely denied entry.
Dubai Duty Free, owner and organiser of the event, has made no comment. There was no immediate comment from the UAE government.
Peer, a former top 20 player currently ranked 48, became the first Israeli to play in a tour event in the Gulf region when she took part in the Qatar Open in February 2008.
Qatar, which had low-level ties with Israel including an Israeli trade office in its capital, suspended those relations in protest against the three-week Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip that ended in January.
At the time, Peer said she had received a warm welcome in Doha. "I really got a warm welcome from the tournament," Peer said. "When you go on the court you don't think about politics. You just want to play your tennis. They treat me really nice. I feel very comfortable."
"I'm not coming here to help the politics of course, but if by me playing in this tournament it can help anything in the world, for peace or anything, I'll be really happy," she said.
The Gaza offensive, which killed 1,300 Palestinians and 14 Israelis, caused deep anger around the Arab and Muslim worlds. - Reuters