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Middle East
Row over Jerusalem tourism meeting
Organisers threaten to cancel conference after politician says it endorses the position of the city as Israel's capital.
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2010 13:43 GMT
Israel refuses to recognise occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state [AFP]

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has threatened to cancel a conference in Jerusalem after the Israeli tourism minister said the meeting proved the disputed city is recognised as Israel's capital.

Angel Gurria, the OECD secretary-general, sent a letter to Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, saying that for the conference to take place, Stas Misezhnikov, the tourism minister, "should correct the misperception created and put the meeting in its proper perspective", a tourism ministry official said on Saturday.

Netanyahu's office and the Paris-based OECD had no comment on the letter.

Last week, Misezhnikov claimed that despite opposition against the conference being held in Jerusalem, it was going to go ahead as planned between October 20-22.

"This will be a declaration of intent and a seal of approval on the fact that we have a state whose recognised capital is Jerusalem," he said.

"Israel's joining the OECD is of great importance in terms of building a positive image for the country."

Unrecognised capital

Israel proclaimed Jerusalem to be its capital in 1950, but that position is not recognised by most countries, and the United Nations has proposed that the city should have "international status", which would separate it from the direct control of just Israel.

Foreign governments have their embassies in Tel Aviv, the country's financial centre. 

The Palestinians want predominantly-Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of any future independent state, but Israel insists that it should be undivided under its control.

Israel's tourism ministry said that Misezhnikov regretted any "misunderstanding" that his remarks might have caused, noting that a letter of clarification would be sent to Gurria.

Misezhnikov is a political ally of Israel's hardline foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

This is only the second time in its history that the conference - which this year addresses sustainable tourism - will be held outside Paris.

Palestinian anger

After 16 years of trying, Israel was admitted to the group in May this year, despite strong opposition from many renowned public figures as well as several member states.

Riyad al-Malki, the Palestinian Authority's minister of foreign affairs, had warned in a letter to OECD members at the time, that accepting Israel would legitimise "dangerous" and "racist" policies towards Palestinians.

The pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement plans to protest in Jerusalem, saying that this "represents a further instance of the international community deliberately turning a blind eye to the slow and insidious ongoing process of ethnic cleansing taking place in Jerusalem".

The Palestinian Initiative for Responsible Tourism, a network "committed to responsible tourism", has also expressed dismay at the OECD's choice of location.

They have called on the OECD to find a new location that could "be considered consistent with OECD's vision of a fairer world economy".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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