WASHINGTON – Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission) and Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, will travel on an official CODEL to Israel from December 16 to 19, 2007. While in Israel, Hastings plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, attend the OSCE Mediterranean Partners conference entitled, “Combating Intolerance and Discrimination and Promoting Mutual Respect and Understanding,” and also hold bilateral meetings with other leading government officials. Hastings, who is President Emeritus of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, will chair a meeting on countering discrimination during the conference.
“Over the past year, in my travel to the region and in meetings that I have held with representatives of our Mediterranean Partners, I have continued to urge that the annual OSCE Mediterranean Conference be held in Israel. I am quite pleased that it will be taking place there this year. This conference undoubtedly comes at a time in which manifestations of intolerance and discrimination have increased within the OSCE region and beyond. We must ensure the protection and preservation of rights for the most vulnerable in our societies, no matter their race, religion, national origin or gender. These are the core principles of the Helsinki process and are essential to stable, productive, and democratic societies.
“Furthermore, I believe this visit comes at a critical time for the region as the first round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks since the Annapolis Summit has been launched in Jerusalem. I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Olmert to discuss the many pressing bilateral issues facing both our countries and to express my steadfast support for Israel’s on-going peace negotiations,” said Hastings.