Meseznikov castigated for ‘misbehaving in Spain’

Tourism minister calls allegations slanderous and bordering on libel.

February 2, 2010 00:19
2 minute read.
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov.

Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov.. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov came under fire from Israeli diplomats in Spain on Monday for what they described as “embarrassing behavior” during a recent visit to Madrid.

Sources in the Israeli Embassy criticized Meseznikov for a last-minute cancellation of a dinner he was supposed to attend with more than 50 businessmen and for being late to an event in a Toledo church, which was closed to visitors for two hours to accommodate the minister’s visit.

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Meseznikov said the accusations were slanderous and bordered on libel.

The events unfolded while the tourism minister was on a visit to Spain between December 19 and 25, to participate in the International Tourism Trade Fair.

The diplomats claimed the minister had acted unprofessionally and that his actions were “a disgrace to Israel.”

They said the minister had been scheduled to attend a dinner with Spanish business leaders, each of whom paid €65 to attend the meal, but that at the last moment, Meseznikov had told Israeli Ambassador Raphael Schotz that he was tired and wouldn’t be coming to dinner.

Gil Gidron, chairman of the Spain-Israel Chamber of Commerce, which organized the event, said on Channel 10 that the businessmen were insulted by the cancellation.

“They weren’t very happy, to say the least. We went to great lengths to bring those people and the minister just canceled at the last minute,” Gidron said. “It’s a pity he didn’t have a chance to hear what they think about doing business with Israel. He might have learned something.”

Sources said that while the minister skipped the dinner, saying he was tired after a day full of events, he and several of his aides went out to dinner and visited several bars the same evening.

In response, Meseznikov’s spokesman issued a statement blaming mismanagement of the schedule on the embassy staff and accusing Schotz of slandering the minister because of an unfavorable report Meseznikov had given Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman about the ambassador’s “problematic functioning.”

“The minister of tourism held a working visit to Spain and Portugal during which he attended Europe’s largest tourism fair, signed a joint international tourism deal with Portugal, held many meetings with state and private tourism executives and held interviews with the media. He did this to promote tourism to Israel and meet the aim of increasing tourism by a million visitors over the next three years,” read the statement.

“Anything that has been stated about the minister’s activities during his free time borders on slander and is not deserving of a response,” it added.

Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.

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