Ties have soured, says Israel envoy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2001, 12:00am

Technological and scientific exchanges between China and Israel may be improving, but an Israeli diplomat says cultural and tourism exchanges have all but stopped since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Officials from both countries' agricultural ministries met in Beijing yesterday to celebrate the inauguration of the Sino-Israeli Demonstration Dairy Farm in Tongzhou district.

The 620 dairy cattle at the demonstration dairy farm have been hooked up to computerised stations developed by the Israelis that will provide advanced milking, feeding, herding management and veterinary data. It will allow Chinese cattle to produce higher quantities of better-quality milk.

But despite the fanfare of yesterday's ceremony, one Israeli diplomat said bilateral relations had soured significantly since the September 11 attacks, leaving tourists stranded and planned bilateral exchanges cancelled.

The official said Beijing had gone from refusing entry to Arabs from the Middle East to refusing entry to Israelis as well.

'We now have at least 50 Israelis who are stranded in Mongolia because the only way they can fly home is via China,' the diplomat said.

But this was not the only problem the Israelis had faced, the diplomat said, with a variety of bilateral events cancelled.

'We had scheduled an exhibition called Across Israel that was to be held in Harbin, a city with rather strong ties to the Jewish community. But Chinese officials cancelled it, saying the time for cross-cultural exchanges 'was not ripe'.'