Stas Meseznikov and Aart De Geus OECD 311.
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
“The pathetic efforts of senior Palestinian officials like Saeb Erekat to extend
the boycott of Israel to the sphere of the OECD is disappointing and doesn’t
contribute to the building of trusting relations in the diplomatic front. You
can’t say you are interested in reaching a peace agreement and at the same time
scurry around and attempt to delegitimize us in a professional, non-political
event like the tourism summit. The two just don’t go together.” So said
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov at a press conference wrapping up the
closed-door sessions part of the 86th annual OECD Tourism Committee taking place
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Despite the efforts of the conference organizers to shift
the focus of the event from political to professional matters, politics
continued to dominate on Thursday, the second day of the three-day event, which
saw delegates from 23 member countries participate in the conference dedicated
to development of green tourism.
During the press conference Meseznikov
and OECD deputy secretary-general Aart De Geus were peppered with questions
regarding the OECD’s choice of Jerusalem as the venue for the conference and the
rumors of countries boycotting the conference due to pressure by Palestinian
“The decision to hold the conference in Jerusalem was reached
by consensus,” said De Geurs. “The event was coordinated on professional, not
political grounds and has no political connotations.”
used the stage to deny media reports that he had equated the holding of the
conference in Jerusalem to de facto recognition by participating countries of
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The minister said his statements had
been misunderstood and misrepresented by journalists.
that the Palestinians’ efforts to have the conference venue changed in recent
weeks actually harmed their own interests. “In doing so they are shooting
themselves in the foot. Any increase in tourism in Israel directly benefits the
Palestinians… Tourists who come to the Holy Land don’t care which state they are
visiting. They come to see the holy sites, and our initiatives to market Israel
on the basis of its historical, cultural and religious centrality actually aid
Meseznikov said that just as the OECD itself was
formed as part of the Marshall Plan following the Second World War to help
increase cooperation between regional states, The Middle East could benefit from
“It is a successful framework transforming the
approach and relations between nations and a raw model for our region where a
stable and strong economy would benefit all the inhabitants,” said
“Growing trust will produce a win-win situation. Cooperation
with our neighbors will enable the creation of new projects, which will produce
more jobs, draw investment and improve the image of the region in the eyes of
the world,” he said.
Turning to professional matters, Meseznikov said he
saw Israel as having a leading role in the development of green tourism and that
it would study carefully the results of the studies presented during the
conference and work towards implementing strict environmental standards in all
future tourism projects and revising existing projects to make them more
De Geurs said that Israel could benefit from
participation in the OECD and learning from its experts and its experiences in
order to expand its tourism sector, strengthen its economy, create jobs and
increase world cultural understanding.
Friday, the last day of the
summit, will see the final deliberations of the High Level Round Table in which
conference participants will discuss a range of topics relating to green tourism
including international cooperation, green jobs in tourism, policy approaches to
foster growth in green tourism and green tourism infrastructure.
of the conference the delegates will visit the Jerusalem Bird Observatory to see
an example of local green tourism.