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FIFA delays decision on Israel West Bank clubs

© AFP/File | Head of FIFA's monitoring mission on the Israel-Palestinian issue of football, South Africa's Tokyo Sexwale (L)hugs FIFA President Gianni Infantino after a meeting of the FIFA Council on October 14, 2016

MANAMA (AFP) - 

FIFA said on Tuesday it was "premature" to take any final decision on the controversial issue of Israeli clubs in the West Bank, according to a statement.

The communique came after a five-hour long FIFA Council meeting in Bahrain, ahead of the issue being scheduled for discussion by its annual Congress, which takes place in Manama on May 11.

"Following the report by chairman of the Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, Tokyo Sexwale, the FIFA Council considered that at this stage it is premature for the FIFA Congress to take any decision," read the statement.

It is not clear after the statement whether the issue will remain on the Congress' agenda.

The Palestine Football Association argues that the presence of six Israeli football clubs playing inside settlements in the occupied West Bank, that are seen as illegal under international law, are also in breach of FIFA statutes.

These statutes forbid another member association playing on another territory without permission.

Israel argues that FIFA rules are unenforceable as there is no permanent border.

The issue, which has become a long-running sore for FIFA, was further enflamed this week after reports that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned FIFA president Gianni Infantino, apparently asking for the item to be taken off of this week's agenda.

A FIFA commission chaired by South Africa's Sexwale presented several potential solutions in a report in March, but these were rejected by Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub.

Tuesday's decision to delay was immediately criticised.

"FIFA has today failed in what is a litmus test of its proclaimed commitment to human rights," said Martin Konecny of the Brussels-based think tank, European Middle East Project.

© 2017 AFP