The International Paralympic Committee expressed disappointment on Saturday after Malaysia said it would not allow Israeli swimmers to attend a competition in the country that will serve as a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, AFP reported.
Malaysia is one of a number of Muslim-majority countries that has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, with entry to the country on an Israeli passport prohibited.
The city of Kuching in the eastern Sarawak state will host hundreds of swimmers from 70 countries from July 29 to August 4.
On Thursday, however, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Kuala Lumpur would deny visas to Israeli para swimmers seeking to attend the meet.
“We maintain our stand on the prohibition. If they do come, it is a violation,” he said, according to AFP.
“If they (the International Paralympic Committee) want to withdraw Malaysia’s right to host the championship, they can do so,” added Mahathir.
The IPC said in a statement that it was “disappointed” with Mahathir’s comments, although it would aim to “find a solution” to the issue.
This is not the first time that there have been issues with Malaysia over Israeli athletes taking part in competitions on its territory.
In 2016, the Israel Sailing Association withdrew athletes from a competition in Malaysia after they were denied entry visas to the country.
Later, Israel pulled its team from the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Kuala Lumpur following a row with the Malaysian government over entry visas.
In 2017, Malaysia decided not to host the 67th FIFA Conference because an Israeli delegation was scheduled to participate.
Many in Malaysia support the Palestinian Authority, with thousands taking to the streets to protest in December of 2017 when US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.
In response to Trump’s decision, Malaysia said it would open an embassy in eastern Jerusalem to recognize the city as the capital of “Palestine”.