A Syrian boxer has quit the 2016 world boxing championships in Azerbaijan after refusing to fight his Israeli opponent.

The tournament in Baku is a qualifying event for this summer’s Olympic Games, but Alaa Ghosoun refused to take part in the first round fight.

He told Arab media: “I quit the competition because my rival was Israeli, and I cannot shake his hand or compete against him while he represents a Zionist regime that kills the Syrian people. If I fight against him, it would mean that I, as a athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the state of Israel.”

“The decision to quit was not mine. It was made by the Syrian Sports Federation and by senior Syrian officials. It was a very difficult decision, because I have worked hard to participate in the championship. But I serve my homeland – my honor and my loyalty belong to Syria.”

Isa Nassar, the head of the Syrian Boxing Association, said: “Ghasoun was expected to perform very well in the championship, because he is one of the best Syrian boxers. However, his love and loyalty to Syria and insistence on his principles were more important than winning the tournament.”