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Israel office strike has little affect on Taiwanese travelers

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The ongoing strike at the Israeli representative office in Taipei will have little impact on Taiwanese travelers, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.

The Israeli representative office in Taiwan announced Monday its intention to shut down its operations as part of a worldwide general strike of the country's foreign missions due to a labor dispute.

Israel's diplomats will no longer engage with foreign representatives, take care of official visits of any kind — either in Israel or overseas — issue visas or provide any consular services, according to an Israeli foreign ministry statement.

Commenting on the issue yesterday, Lee Rem-loong (李仁隆), deputy head of MOFA's Department of West Asian and African Affairs, said at a press conference that the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei's suspension of visa application services has little impact on Taiwanese since R.O.C. passport holders have been granted visa-free entry treatment by Israel.

Taiwan and Israel signed a reciprocal visa-waiver agreement on June 17, 2011. The deal took effect in August of that year, Lee noted.

However, the visa-free privilege only applies to travel for the purposes of tourism, short-term study or business, Lee said.

The strike could affect those nationals who need visas to be issued by Israeli authorities to engage in work and/or long-term study in the Middle Eastern country, the official said.

According to MOFA, only around 20 Taiwanese nationals are currently engaged in work and long-term study in Israel.

Meanwhile, around 5,000 Israelis travel to Taiwan annually. Several thousand Taiwanese travel to the country each year, according to MOFA.

In a Facebook post, Israel's representative to Taiwan, Simona Halperin, said on Monday that the office has joined embassies and consulates of Israel around the world to take part in the strike amid a labor dispute between the diplomatic staff and the Middle Eastern country's finance ministry.

“Like all 103 offices, embassies and consulates of Israel around the world, the Israel Economic and Cultural office in Taipei closed it's doors today. It's a sad moment for me personally, as someone who devotes her life to promoting Israel in the world.”

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