Unlikely Partners Sign Mediterranean Tourism Pact
LONDON (AP) _ Israel, Egypt and Turkey formed an alliance Wednesday to promote tourism throughout the eastern Mediterranean, and they invited other nations that have recently been at war or remain divided.
Looser border controls and the economic benefits of more tourism could hasten a lasting peace in the volatile region, tourism ministers from the three nations said as they signed documents forming the Eastern Mediterranean Tourism Association.
″In order to help the peace process, we believe the tourism sector can do a lot,″ said Abdulkadir Ates, Turkey’s minister of tourism.
Ates went on to say he would like to see the formation of a Palestinian state that could join the tourism association EMTA, to be based in Cairo - and Israeli tourism minister Uzi Baram did not flinch.
Baram said he would like to see Jordan join the group even before it signs a peace treaty with Israel.
Egypt’s tourism minister, Mamdouh El Beltagui, said the partnership should include ″Cypriots, Greeks, Jordanians, Lebanese, Palestinians, Syrians.″ Other potential candidates would include war-torn Bosnia, and Libya, which has become an international pariah over its refusal to turn over suspects in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103.
The tourism ministers maintained optimism, despite questions from reporters who wondered how realistic it would be to see the alliance include such places as the divided island of Cyprus, or Lebanon, which as recently as this summer suffered heavy casualties in bombing raids by the Israeli air force.
The ministers were also asked about security, following the murders of foreign tourists in Egypt by Islamic fundamentalists, which severely damaged Egypt’s tourism industry.
″Let me tell you clearly, we have no problem with security as a matter of fact in Egypt,″ El Beltagui said. ″This so-called fundamentalism is history.″