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Malaysia affirms ban on Israelis at world para swimming champs

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Malaysia has imposed a blanket ban on all Israelis participating in events hosted by the Southeast Asian nation, as the government maintains its decision to ban Israeli athletes from taking part in the World Para Swimming Championships in July.

Malaysia's cabinet decided last week that Israelis will not be allowed to enter the country for any event, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said on Wednesday.

"Even if we have already committed to hosting an event, they will not be allowed (into the country)," he said in a recording of a press conference heard by Reuters.

"Secondly, Malaysia will not host any event that has representation from or participation of Israel."

On Monday, AFP quoted the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as saying that it was "disappointed" with Malaysia's decision to bar the swimmers from entering the country, but hoped to "find a solution" to the matter.

Swimmers from some 70 countries are expected to compete at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in the eastern state of Sarawak from July 29-Aug. 4.

Malaysia, a majority-Muslim country, has long supported a two-state solution in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Thousands in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia took to the streets last December to protest Washington's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Last month, Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticized Australia's decision to follow the U.S. in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying countries had "no rights" to do so.

Saifuddin said Malaysia will continue to take a strong position on the plight of the Palestinians, which Malaysia considers to be a humanitarian crisis.

"We are looking at the Palestinian issue not simply from the religious point of view... it is a humanitarian, human rights issue," he said.

"It is about fighting on behalf of the oppressed."
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