Jerusalem OECD tourism conference back on track

No cancellation after Steinitz promises economic and development group's chief Israel will refrain from making political statements.

oecd circle jerk 311 (photo credit: AP)
oecd circle jerk 311
(photo credit: AP)
Finance minister Yuval Steinitz met with OECD Secretary- General Angel Gurria in Washington on Saturday and succeeded in lowering the flames that were sparked after statements made by Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov last week regarding the location of an OECD tourism conference.
The conference, which is about developing “green tourism” in Organization of Economic Cooperation Development member-states, turned into a mini-diplomatic crisis after Meseznikov accused Spain and the United Kingdom of boycotting the conference due to Palestinian pressure.
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Meseznikov had said that the OECD had tried to convince Israel to move the conference from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, but that after consultations with the Foreign Ministry it was decided that it would remain in Jerusalem.
After the meeting in Washington, it emerged that the OECD chief complained to Steinitz that the conference was politicized, adding that his organization deals strictly with financial matters.
Steinitz asked that the conference not be moved to Tel Aviv, and said Israel would refrain from making any political statements regarding it.
Both the UK and Spain denied that they were boycotting the conference, but the OECD felt that the issue was becoming too politicized and that Meseznikov had implied that the OECD’s decision to hold its conference in Jerusalem was a de facto recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.
In a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Gurria warned that Meseznikov’s comments had put the organization’s upcoming meeting in Jerusalem in question.
“In order to go forward with this meeting on the current basis, the tourism minister should correct the misperceptions created and put the meeting in its proper perspective,” Gurria said.
“They also make it more difficult to propose further meetings in Israel.”
Gurria said that he regretted Meseznikov’s putting the meeting in the context of the peace process, saying that it is “counterproductive to our common objective to continue the smooth integration of Israel into the work of the organization.”
Meseznikov told The Jerusalem Post that he deeply appreciated the fact that the organization decided to hold the second conference ever held outside of Paris in Israel, and that choosing Israel was an important decision. He said that his words were misunderstood and that clarifications would be given to the secretary- general in the upcoming days.