Comment at end
4th February, 2010
AS CLARE SHORT SNORTS, TONY SMILES
On the same day, Tuesday, that Clare Short was doing her best to blacken the name of her former boss, Tony Blair was visiting Sebastia, near Nablus in the West Bank.
Looks worried doesn’t he?
Tourism can help regenerate West Bank, says Tony Blair on visit to Sebastia
Quartet Representative Tony Blair visited the Sebastia Tourism Site on Tuesday morning as part of his efforts to revive tourism in the Northern West Bank following the opening of the Jalameh crossing.
Tony Blair said: “I was fascinated to visit Sebastia today, with its wealth of archaeological heritage and history, and to see the massive potential of place for regenerating the tourism industry in the Northern West Bank. It is one of the most impressive places I have visited.
“If we could remove the key obstacles, you can see the development potential for Palestinians. Now that we have seen the opening of the Jalameh crossing, we need to encourage and promote the ‘Nativity Route’ between Nazareth and Bethlehem, which would vastly increase the number of people visiting Sebastia, both international and Arab-Israeli visitors alike.”
Following Tony Blair’s successful efforts to re-open the Jalameh crossing for Arab-Israeli citizens, there are now close to 4,000 cars crossing every week, boosting the economy of Jenin Governorate. The effects of the opening of Jalameh should also boost tourism to Sebastia and other tourism sites in the northern West Bank. Access through Jalameh for tourist buses re-opens the “Nativity Route” between Nazareth and Bethlehem, which should attract foreign and Arab-Israeli tourists alike. There has also been a significant easing of movement in and around the Nablus Governorate which will further help in boosting the Palestinian tourism industry.
Asked about the latest on the political negotiations, Tony Blair said: “The most important thing is that any negotiation is credible in leading to a viable and just two state solution, and what my visit here today shows is that if we were able to get a negotiation underway what a fantastic state we could create here.”
The village of Sebastia is located north west of Nablus and is adjacent to a large archaeological site with the heritage of six successive cultures dating back 10,000 years: Canaanite, Israelite, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman and Byzantine. It is the most impressive archaeological site in the West Bank that could be developed to benefit Palestinians (although it is not under formal Palestinian control). The 12th century ‘Nabi Yahya Mosque’ in Sebastia village centre, named after John the Baptist, is another unique site of religious and archaeological significance.
Tags: “Nativity Route”, Bethlehem, Byzantine, Canaanite, Clare Short, Hellenistic, Herodian, Iraq inquiry, Israelite, Jalameh, Nablus, Nazareth, Northern West Bank, Quartet Representative, Roman, Sebastia, Sebastia Tourism Site, Tony Blair, West Bank