Malaysia Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019.
Malaysia Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019.

Malaysia says it will maintain a decision to ban Israeli athletes from entering the country to take part in an upcoming competition.

The majority-Muslim country does not have formal diplomatic ties with Israel, and bars anyone holding an Israeli passport from entering.  Kuala Lumpur is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and an advocate of a two-state solution.  

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said Wednesday that the government will stand by a decision made by the cabinet last week to bar Israeli athletes from taking part in the World Para Swimming Championships to be held in late July in the eastern state of Sarawak, which will serve as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paraolympics.

The International Paraolympic Committee has said it is "disappointed" in Malaysia's decision, but hopes to find a solution to the issue.  
 
In addition to maintaining the ban, Abdullah said Malaysia will no longer host any events in the future involving Israel or its representatives.  He said the decision reflects the government's strong support for the Palestinians, which he said was a human rights issue.

Thousands of Malaysians marched in protest when U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017.