Israel bars envoys, West Bank conference canceled

RAMALLAH, West Bank Sun Aug 5, 2012 8:41am EDT

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - A meeting of envoys from the Non-Aligned Movement due to convene in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was scrapped on Sunday after Israel refused to admit four attendees from states with which it has no diplomatic relations, Palestinian officials said.

They said other guests, including the foreign ministers of Egypt and Zimbabwe, declined to attend in solidarity with those prevented from taking part.

Israel, which controls access to the West Bank, barred the foreign ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia along with ambassadors from Cuba and Bangladesh on the grounds that the four countries do not recognize the Jewish state.

"We have cleared entry for representatives of countries which have diplomatic relations with Israel and we have not cleared those which do not," Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, told Reuters.

The Non-Aligned Movement, founded during the Cold War to advocate the causes of the developing world, was to convene an unprecedented, high-level meeting in the West Bank in solidarity with the Palestinian leadership, in advance of an annual meeting in Iran at the end of the month.

"Nothing constructive, to say the very least, has ever come out of this committee in the past, and now that it is going to meet in Iran under the chairmanship of Tehran, expectations could not be lower," Palmor said.

A day after announcing that it would restart its bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations, a campaign strongly opposed by the United States and Israel, the Palestinian Authority bristled at the Israeli move.

"(Israel) exploits its position as an occupying power to prevent Palestine from communication with the countries of the world and to isolate the Palestinian people and its institutions," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee.

Palestinian officials had hoped entrance into U.N. agencies and attendance of international gatherings in the capacity of a state would improve their standing internationally and undermine Israel's 45-year occupation of the West Bank.

(Reporting by Noah Browning in Ramallah and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Janet Lawrence)