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Israeli Ram given visa to play tennis in Dubai

UAE officials stress decision has no political implications

The United Arab Emirates have granted Israel's Andy Ram a visa to be able to play in the men's Dubai Championships next week, the state news agency WAM said on Thursday.

The Director of the Consular Affairs Department of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affair, Sultan Al Qertasi, told the official WAM news agency that the decision was in accordance "with the obligations of Emirates to organize international sporting, cultural and economic events without restriction to the participation of individuals from U.N. member states.

"This is a well-established policy and has no political implications. Nor does this decision indicate any form of normalisation of relations with countries with whom the United Arab Emirates does not have diplomatic relations," Qertasi concluded.

Top Israeli player Shahar Peer had to forfeit her place in the women's tournament in Dubai this week after the UAE blocked her visa application.

"We welcome the change of the UAE policy which will allow Andy Ram to play this week in Dubai and which clarifies that all Israeli athletes will be able to compete in future tournaments in UAE," Women's Tennis Association chief Larry Scott said in a statement.

Tournament officials defended the stance, saying local fans would have boycotted the event if an Israeli was allowed to compete and that Peer's safety could also have been compromised.

The UAE, like most Arab countries, has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

The refusal to issue a visa to Peer violated WTA Tour rules, which state any player should be able to compete where she wishes if she has the required ranking.

Peer herself issued a statement saying she did not want other players to suffer while stressing there was no place for politics in sport.

This is a well established policy and has no political implications. Nor does this decision indicate any form of normalisation of relations with countries with whom the United Arab Emirates does not have diplomatic relations

Sultan Al Qertasi