Israeli officials threaten Giro d'Italia support over 'west Jerusalem' reference

Further controversy for RCS Sport in the Middle East

Israeli officials have threatened to withdraw support for the planned 2018 Giro d'Italia start in the Middle East country over wording surrounding the opening stage in Jerusalem, according to an Agency French Press report posted on the Daily Mail.

During its route unveiling on Wednesday in Milan, RCS Sport referred to the opening stage in "west Jerusalem" when describing the opening time trial in the western sector of the city that both Israel and Palestinians have made claims.

Israel has occupied east Jerusalem since seizing it in 1967's Six-Day War. The country later annexed it, although the international community has never recognised that administrative move.

Israel now claims the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians believe east Jerusalem is occupied illegally and hope to one day establish it as the capital of their future state.

RCS Sport's reference to "west" Jerusalem obviously touched a nerve with the race's Israeli hosts.

"In Jerusalem, Israel's capital, there is no east or west," said Sports Minister Miri Regev and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in a joint statement, according to the Agency French Press.

"There is one unified Jerusalem," read the statement, which claimed that using the term was "a breach of the agreements with the Israeli government."

"If the wording does not change, the Israeli government will not be a partner in the event," the two ministers said in the statement, according to the AFP.

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The race has also come under fire from Palestinian rights groups, which last week sent an open letter to RCS Sport asking the race owners to move the start out of Israel.

The letter specifically called out RCS Sport for promotional materials on its website, saying the "Giro d'Italia deceptively portrays occupied East Jerusalem as part of Israel and as its unified capital. No country in the world recognises any part of Jerusalem as Israel's capital."

Representatives of RCS Sport did not immediately respond to Cyclingnews' requests for comment late Wednesday night.

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