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Middle East
Row over Jerusalem tourism meeting
Britain and Spain expected to boycott conference after Israel refuses to shift venue to Tel Aviv.
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2010 20:01
Israel refuses to recognise occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state [Getty]

Britain and Spain are expected to boycott a tourism conference that will be hosted by Israel and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), because it will be held in Jerusalem.

Quoting Israel's tourism minister, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Tuesday that OECD officials demanded that conference delegates not be taken to occupied East Jerusalem, or alternatively that the conference be held in Tel Aviv, Israel's capital city.

"If we agreed to that, they promised to send many delegates. We held a meeting with the Foreign Ministry and decided to reject the Tel Aviv idea," Stas Misezhnikov was reported to have said.

He claimed that pressure from the Palestinians had resulted in the boycott, even though Israel had agreed not to take the delegates to East Jerusalem.

OECD is an organisation of governments that claims to be committed to democracy and the market economy to support sustainable economic growth and contribute to growth in world trade.

Disputed capital

This is only the second time in its history that the conference, which this year will deal with sustainable tourism, is being held outside Paris.

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 Palestinians, who insist they are a reliable negotiating partner, are continuing to cause us damage," Misezhnikov said, referring to claims that Palestinians had pressured members to boycott the conference in late October.

"We exerted intensive pressure via the ambassadors and decided to hold the conference despite certain countries' decision not to send delegates, including England and Spain."

He said that the conference will go ahead, as planned, in Jerusalem: "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."

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

Palestinian opposition

Delegates from Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, South Africa, The Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Estonia and Turkey, among others, are expected to take part in the conference.

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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