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Turkey will not attend OECD conference, minister says

12 October 2010 |ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey will not send any delegation to a biannual tourism conference in Israel later this month, the country’s culture minister said Tuesday, marking the first boycott of Israel on a multilateral level since a deadly raid on a Turkish aid ship in May.

Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay told a group of reporters Tuesday that Turkey would not send any representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, conference on Oct. 20-22 in Jerusalem. “Regrettable statements have been made. We want tourism to take place, not politics,” he said.

Diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that the Turkish decision would mark the first boycott of Israel on a multilateral platform. Despite the May 31 flotilla incident, an Israeli Foreign Ministry diplomat attended a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, or CICA, last week in Ankara.

Initially, Turkey intended to send the ministry’s deputy undersecretary, Özgür Özaslan, to the tourism conference, but Ankara changed its decision after evaluating the situation.

Spain and Britain will also not attend the OECD conference.

Israeli press claimed Palestinians were pressuring European countries to shun the conference on sustainable tourism, which normally takes place in Paris, on the grounds that the event would take place in east Jerusalem, considered the capital of the future Palestinian state.

Diplomatic sources, however, told the Daily News that the conference would take place in west Jerusalem.