Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon asked Arab leaders to consider water as a catalyst for peace and stressed the importance of sharing renewable technologies, at the sixth annual international WATEC-Israel exhibition on Tuesday.

“Israel will benefit from a peace agreement, but you will also gain a genuine partner for development and the assured welfare of future generations in the region,” he said to Arab leaders at the exhibition’s opening session.

“Unfortunately, many times in the history of the region, water was a reason for conflict and bloodshed,” he continued.

“Today, I want to change this equation together with you, to turn water into a bridge to peace.”

The three-day Tel Aviv exhibition and coinciding conference features participants from all over the world, with more than 30 heads of state and ministers, as well as 150 business delegations, gathering to discuss their water technologies, renewable energy systems and environmental control, according to the Foreign Ministry.

“We at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are constantly looking at ways to conduct relations beyond traditional diplomacy,” Ayalon said. “To this end, we conduct a form of environmental diplomacy and try to apply it also within our own region, here in the Middle East, and beyond.”

To achieve smoother relations, Israel must use its highly developed tools to assist other countries in developing their water infrastructures, according to the deputy foreign minister.

“Israel is among the leading states in the world in water technologies and is willing to share its knowledge and experience with other countries so that together we can provide for the increasing needs of the world’s ever-growing population,” he said.

One country particularly present at this year’s exhibition is China, which has sent an “unprecedented” number of delegates to WATEC – 24 groups, consisting of more than 200 people and representing more than 130 commercial companies, research institutes and government offices, are attending the event, according to a statement from the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.

The total number of Chinese visitors is higher than that of any other country’s delegation and coincides with a significant increase in trade with the Asian nation, which amounted to $6.8 billion in 2010 – an increase of 49 percent over the previous year, the ministry reported.

“Israel sees in China as one of the most important trade partners to [our country], and the Industry, Labor and Trade Ministry is investing great efforts to increase the scope and the variety of trade with China and with other countries in Asia,” Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom said in a statement.

The statement added that the ministry was signing an agreement of cooperation on water issues with the Chinese city of Tianjin later in the day.

Meanwhile, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau announced during WATEC’s opening session that the government would be investing NIS 700 million over the next five years in developing sewage infrastructure for the periphery.

“These days, while a revolution goes on in the Middle East, Israel’s water sector is also going through one, and at a period in which amounts of rain are dwindling, we provide water to our neighbors,” Landau said.

“We want to see our neighbors solve their water problems, develop economies and democracy,” he added. “We are certain that this development is a significant milestone that will help bring peace with our neighbors.”

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