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Israel says hosting Iraqi, Saudi journalists in first

The journalists are set to visit Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and holy sites in Jerusalem (AFP Photo/MENAHEM KAHANA)

Jerusalem (AFP) - Israel's foreign ministry said Sunday the country will this week host six journalists from Arab countries including, for the first time, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The visit comes as Israel seeks to improve ties with Gulf Arab countries, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.

Those states have resisted offering Israel formal recognition due to its continuing occupation of Palestinian territory, but their relations have warmed of late, largely due to common concerns over Iran.

The journalists will visit Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, parliament and holy sites, among others, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said it had "the aim of exposing the journalists –- some of whom come from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel -– to Israeli positions on diplomatic and geopolitical issues".

Jordan is also participating, the ministry said.

Jordan is one of only two Arab countries, along with Egypt, that have diplomatic relations with Israel.

In another recent sign of a thaw, a group of Israeli journalists attended the US-led economic conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace in the Gulf state of Bahrain in late June.

The Palestinian leadership boycotted the conference, citing a series of moves against them by US President Donald Trump's administration.

On Thursday, Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz said that he had met his Bahraini counterpart publicly for the first time during a visit to Washington last week.

Katz also recently visited Abu Dhabi for a UN climate conference, where he met United Nations chief Antonio Guterres and an unnamed "high ranking UAE official".