Turkey will not send a delegation to the biannual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tourism conference, to be held in Jerusalem later this month, the Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted the country's culture minister as saying Wednesday.
Tensions between Israel and Turkey peaked earlier this year, following a deadly Israeli raid aboard a Turkish aid ship sailing to Gaza in attempt to violate the Israeli naval blockade. On May 31, Israeli navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara and killed nine Turkish activists on board after facing violence from the passengers.
Israel's relations with Turkey had been shaky even prior to the incident, as Turkey was openly critical of Israel's offensive in Gaza during the winter of 2008-2009.
According to Hurriyet, Turkey's decision not to send a delegation to the conference marks the country's first official boycott of Israel on an international level since the Mavi Marmara raid.
"Regrettable statements have been made. We want tourism to take place, not politics," the paper quoted Turkey's Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay as having said. The statements he was likely referring to were remarks by Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, who said in an interview with Haaretz on Monday that although some countries have canceled their participation in the conference, the fact that most countries have not canceled their participation is a show of support for Israel's territorial claims in Jerusalem.
Spain and Britain have announced that they will not be sending delegations to the conference.
Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), sent a harsh letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week warning that due to Misezhnikov's comments, the decision to hold a tourism conference in Jerusalem could be hindered.
The Secretary-General protested the fact that Misezhnikov had linked the conference to political issues and said that the incident could hinder the planning of future conferences in Israel.
Israel joined the OECD in May after 31 members of the organization unanimously voted in favor of accepting Israel as a member of the group.
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