FM Shalom arrived in Tunisia at the head of Israel’s delegation to the World Summit of Information Society (WSIS).

 FM Shalom heads historic mission to Tunisia


Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom arrived in Tunisia today (Tuesday, 15 November) at the head of Israel’s delegation to the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS), a United Nations-sponsored conference.

The delegation arrived in Tunisia on the first flight by an Israeli airline to that North African country, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Tunisia had opened an office in Israel in 1996, but broke off relations following the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000.

"In the coming weeks, I will continue to further the economic issue in the international arena," Minister Shalom said before departing for the information summit. "This will be an additional opportunity to advance our agenda on the issue of normalization with the Arab world and the Muslim countries.

"We come to this summit, which deals with technology and communications, with proposals for regional cooperation with our neighbors for the welfare of all the peoples of the region. This will be the first official visit by an Israeli foreign minister in Tunisia, a visit with great political importance, and I hope also economic importance. From my point of view, this will be another brick in the structure we are building with the Arab countries, a joint structure of dialogue and coming closer together."

For Minister Shalom the visit also has a personal poignancy: He was born in Tunisia and was brought by his parents to Israel when he was one year old. He will visit Gabbes, his hometown, and other sites with his mother, brother, uncle, and wife, who are accompanying him.

Israel’s official delegation includes representatives from government, the Knesset, the private sector, academia and civil society. Its goals are to increase international awareness of the state of the information society in Israel and to foster opportunities for international collaboration.

The first phase of WSIS was hosted by the Government of Switzerland in Geneva in December 2003, when 175 countries adopted a declaration of principles and plan of action. This second phase, hosted by the Government of Tunisia, takes place in Tunis on 16-18 November 2005.