Meseznikov: PA hurt itself by trying to block OECD meeting

Tourism Minister says "Cooperation with our neighbors will enable the creation of new projects, jobs, and investment and improve the image of the region in the eyes of the world."

Stas Meseznikov and Aart De Geus OECD 311 (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
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 in Jerusalem.
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.
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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 officials.
“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.”
Meseznikov also 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.
Meseznikov said 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 the Palestinians.”
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 similar cooperation.
“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 Meseznikov.
“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 environmentally friendly.
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.
As part of the conference the delegates will visit the Jerusalem Bird Observatory to see an example of local green tourism.