oecd - Daniel Bar-On - April 23 2010
OECD Secretary-General Jose Angel Gurria. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), sent a harsh letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning that due to comments made by Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beitenu),  the decision to hold a tourism conference in Jerusalem could be hindered.

Misezhnikov said in an interview with Haaretz on Monday that although some countries have cancelled their participation in the OECD conference to be held in Jerusalem later this month, the fact that most countries have not cancelled their participation is a show of support for Israel's territorial claims in Jerusalem.

Gurria wrote in the letter that he demanded clarifications regarding Misezhnikov's comments and claimed that the OECD had made it known to Israel that their decision to hold the conference in Jerusalem was not meant to have political implications.

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.

The OECD plans to hold its biannual tourism conference on October 20-22 in Jerusalem. According to Misezhnikov, Britain and Spain have said they will not send delegates to the conference because it was going to be held in Jerusalem.

Misezhnikov told Haaretz, "the conference - with the participation of 21 ministers, deputy ministers and organization heads - will take place as planned in Jerusalem. This will be a declaration of intent and a seal of approval on the fact that we have a state whose recognized capital is Jerusalem."

Sources close to Misezhnikov said that the tourism minister's comments were misunderstood and that he will look over the letter and reply to it shortly.

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.

In a special press conference, Netanyahu discussed the importance of the admittance into the Paris-based international economic group and noted several economic realities in Israel which the government would focus on improving.

"There is still too much centralization in the private business sector," Netanyahu said of Israel's economy, adding that "we intend to act adamantly to diminish this centralization."