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Tourism delegation will not visit east Jerusalem

Tourism delegation will not visit east Jerusalem

Israel has decided not to take a delegation of international tourism officials to holy sites in east Jerusalem because the visitors worried such a tour could be interpreted as recognition of Israel's claims to the contested sector of the city, officials said Monday.
Jerusalem's holy sites are the city's most popular tourist destinations, but tourism ministers from the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development did not want their visit later this week to become politicized and objected to Israel's plans for the group to tour those areas.
Israel claims all of the city as its capital, but its control over east Jerusalem _ captured in the 1967 Mideast war and home to revered Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites _ is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their capital and urged OECD members to boycott this week's meetings.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said they would not be taken to east Jerusalem.
"If someone wants personally or individually to go to every part of Jerusalem then they are invited but it will not be arranged by the Ministry of Tourism or the government," he told reporters.
Israel joined the OECD this year, and the nation's leaders consider membership in the Paris-based grouping of powerful economies a point of pride.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this month threatening to cancel the conference after Misezhnikov was quoted as saying the gathering amounted to international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Misezhnikov said he was misquoted. "I said that the existence of this summit in Israel is a very good example of how the members of the OECD value Israel as a very strong state economically and in tourism," Misezhnikov said.
Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat called for a boycott, saying Israel was "seeking de facto recognition" of its control over east Jerusalem.
OECD officials said they were unaware of any members formally boycotting the event, though last week, Turkey, which has strained relations with Israel, said it would not be attending.
Misezhnikov said 28 of the 34 member states of the OECD had confirmed they would send representatives to the Jerusalem conference and he was unaware of any cancelations over "political issues."
Some 3 million tourists have visited Israel this year, up from 2.7 million last year, Misezhnikov said.
He cited a change in Israeli advertising strategy for the success. While previous campaigns featured pictures of scantily clad women frolicking on beaches, he said the country now focuses on its holy sites.


Updated : 2021-10-18 12:40 GMT+08:00