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Minister meets her Israeli, Palestinian counterparts

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Jerusalem, Oct 28 (CTK) – Czech Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova met Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in Jerusalem and Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maaya in Bethlehem at the end of her three-day visit to Israel.
“I have learnt that the two tourism ministers have never met. Both have asked me in a way to play a mediator of some diplomacy, for which we have been striving by my visit to Palestine, I suppose,” Slechtova said in an interview with CTK.
Bethlehem, along with Jerusalem, is safe for tourists, Slechtova said, adding that she would rather recommend organised trips there.
She is of the view that most Czech tourists do not now that Bethlehem is actually on Palestinian territory.
She added that Levin had perceived her visit to Palestine neutrally.
“I told him that in diplomacy we cannot look into one direction only, though we have pro-Israeli stances. Bethlehem is a significant site and we are trying to get Czech tourists there… Jerusalem and Bethlehem are related and they belong together in tourism,” she said.
Bethlehem lies on the Palestinian West Bank.
After Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, Slechtova is another Czech government member to visit Palestine.
Like in the U.N., Palestinian representatives talked about the Israeli occupation during the talks on tourism, Slechtova said.
She added she had discussed the traditional stance of the Czech Republic on Israel with Maaya.
“I told her that our pro-Israeli orientation does not mean that we would say ‘no’ to Palestine sometime. The Czech Republic and has never said that either within diplomacy or in foreign relations,” Slechtova said.
The number of Czech tourists going to Israel was rising in the past five years. However, it slightly dropped last year for fear of worsened security, she said.
“Next year, I would like to bring a mission of tour operators and travel agencies to Israel,” she said.
Slechtova also proposed to Levin that the Czech Republic and Israel sign a memorandum on cooperation in tourism.
According to data from the Czech embassy in Tel Aviv, the bilateral tourism incomes are higher on the Czech side.
More than 80,000 Israelis visited the Czech Republic in 2014. Before 2010, about 20,000 Czech tourists went to Israel a year, but in 2014 in was under 16,000. Besides, many of them come only for a one-day trip during their stay in Egypt.
($1=24.504 crowns)

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