OECD tourism conference opens in Jerusalem

An Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development tourism conference opened in Jerusalem on Wednesday with 28 out of 33 members attending over Palestinian protests.

By (AFP)

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Published: Wed 20 Oct 2010, 5:29 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:24 AM

Critics had said Israel would use the forum held by the club of developed economies, to which it was admitted earlier this year, to lend international legitimacy to the Jewish state’s claim to the entire Holy City as its capital.

The Palestinians, who have demanded annexed Arab east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state, had called on the international community to boycott the gathering, as did the Arab League.

Britain and Spain had earlier said they would not send delegations to the conference, the former citing financial reasons and the latter a scheduling conflict. Both denied they were boycotting the event.

An official in Turkey’s tourism ministry said it too would not be participating, without giving further details. Israel’s tourism ministry did not disclose the two other absentees.

Relations between Israel and its once-close military ally Turkey have been severely frayed since a May 31 raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship, in which Israeli naval commandos shot dead nine Turkish activists.

Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov sparked a row with the OECD earlier this month when he suggested that the conference constituted international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The minister, from the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, later backed away from the remarks, saying the gathering should be “apolitical and strictly professional.”

In remarks at the opening of the three-day summit, which will focus on green tourism, Misezhnikov highlighted the growing cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the area of tourism.

“Based upon stability and common interest, cities like Jerusalem and Bethlehem are cooperating for the well-being of thousands of visitors, daily crossing from Israel to the Palestinian Authority and vice-versa,” he said.

“I am confident that this tourism dynamism will spread and we can anticipate the combination with other localities like Jericho joining in that form of cooperation.”

The fate of Jerusalem, with major holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, has been one of the most intractable issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wednesday’s opening session was closed to the public.

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