Israel hits back at Swiss over rights conference

Israel on Friday condemned Switzerland’s plan to host a conference on respect for international human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, charging it was a deviation from the country’s traditional neutrality.

Switzerland has announced a December 17th conference in Geneva, in response to a recommendation from the UN General Assembly at the request of Palestinian authorities.

But the Israeli foreign minister said it was “gravely” concerned by Switzerland’s decision to host the meeting, which comes amid mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israelis.

The Palestinians are seeking a UN resolution by year-end that would set a timetable for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories.

“Switzerland is the depositor of the Geneva Conventions . . . the role of the depositor obliges Switzerland to operate in a neutral and apolitical manner,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The conference will be devoted to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone.

“The decision of the Swiss government to hold a conference of signatories raises serious doubts concerning its commitment to these principles as Switzerland lends a hand to the politicization of the Geneva Conventions in particular and the laws of war in general,” the Israeli ministry said.

The General Assembly passed a resolution in 2009 asking Switzerland to lead consultations on holding such a conference.

Permanent representatives to the UN in Geneva are expected to attend the conference.

The foreign ministry said Israel “will not take part in the conference” and called on other countries to boycott the meeting.

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter has said he expected “very large participation” in the conference.

“Our objective is to advance the cause of international humanitarian law,” Burkhalter said.

“Even if Israel and the United States boycott the meeting, the international community must speak on the issue,” he said.

“There is no denigration of Israel planned.”

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AFP (news@thelocal.ch)

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