OECD protests Israeli remarks on Jerusalem summit 9Oct10 October 10, 2010

Ma’an  News Agency  –   9 October 2010

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development has urged Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu to correct “misperceptions” by his government ahead of a meeting in Jerusalem.

The world economic group will hold its biannual conference 20-22 Oct. in West Jerusalem, a move perceived by some in Netanyahu’s government as a sign that the international community is beginning to accept Israel’s annexation of the city.

The choice of venue has for the same reasons infuriated Palestinians who, like the rest of the international community, all but universally reject Israel’s unilateral claims to Jerusalem and insist that the city’s future remains a matter for final-status agreements.

Adding fuel to the fire, Israeli Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov said Tuesday that the meeting’s location would amount to “a declaration of intent, and a seal of approval on the fact that we have a state whose recognized capital is Jerusalem.”

Not so, according to OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria, who two days later sent a terse message to Netanyahu protesting the statements and demanding that his minister “correct the misperceptions created and put the meeting in its proper perspective.”

Misezhnikov’s statements were “factually incorrect and quite unacceptable,” Gurria wrote.

“They are counterproductive to our common objective to achieve a successful meeting and to continue with the smooth integration of Israel in the work of the Organization,” the letter says. “They also make it more difficult to propose further meetings in Israel,” it adds.

The letter, obtained by Ma’an, is dated 7 October and explains that the OECD holds its meetings in a number of countries other than the host country. “Hence, a meeting in Israel is neither exceptional nor unprecedented.”

Still, the plan to hold OECD’s conference in Jerusalem is significant as it marks only the second time in its 62-year history that the organization has held the biannual conference outside of Paris.

Palestinians have questioned Gurria’s decision to convene the summit in Jerusalem despite UN resolutions calling on member states not to recognize the occupation and illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.

Britain and Spain have announced that they will not participate, although the UK insists its decision is unrelated to the controversy.

In any case, the Fatah movement, which has strongly protested the meeting’s location and timing, said Wednesday that it welcomed the two countries’ decisions and called on other states to follow suit.

Attending the summit, Fatah said in a statement, would reward Israel “while the Israeli occupation is blocking any chance of viable and independent Palestinian tourism.”

Israel was unanimously voted in to the OECD in May 2010 and included figures from West Bank settlements in its membership application. It ranks in third last place among members and has the highest rate of poverty.

This year’s conference, OECD’s 86th, will focus on sustainable tourism.

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