Wednesday, October 6, 2010

(NEWS) Jordan, Palestinians Pull Out Of Cycling Tour With Israel

"Jordanians and Palestinians have pulled out of a cycling tour with Israelis to promote environmental awareness a week after Jordan's Islamist-dominated trade unions urged a boycott.

'We wanted to promote awareness about climate change problems in the region, but those who are against normalisation with Israel have turned the matter into a political issue,' Abdelrahman Sultan, deputy director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) in Jordan, told AFP on Wednesday.

'We understand that the event could provoke some people because of the Middle East peace crisis and Israeli settlement building. So we and the Palestinians decided to cancel our participation to avoid provocations.'

The three-day 'torch-run' event organised by FoEME was scheduled to start on October 8 in Jordan, going on to Israel and finishing in the Palestinian territories.

It was aimed at drawing attention to the threatening impacts of climate change on the lower Jordan River and the Dead Sea, which is shared by Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians.

'Our goal was not political and we did not seek normalisation with Israel. We just wanted to draw people's attention to environmental problems,' Sultan said, adding that 'the Israeli activists will go ahead with the event inside Israel.'

On September 29, a Jordanian trade unions committee that opposes better ties with Israel accused FoEME of 'working to impose normalisation with the Zionist enemy under cover of environmental activities.'

Badi Rafaiyah, who heads the committee, said if Israel 'is really concerned with the environment, it should stop tearing down trees, burning land in the Jordan Valley and polluting the waters of the Jordan River and Dead Sea.'

The Dead Sea, the world's saltiest body of water, is being degraded and seriously threatened by unsustainable economic development and the diversion of its waters, according to FoEME.

The group says that the sea is being degraded at an alarming rate, and is also threatened by pollution, which is destroying its ecologically sensitive habitats.

Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994 but relations have not moved beyond formal diplomatic ties." (source)

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