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Swiss diplomat outlines human rights plan for the Middle East

The human rights monitoring force would function along the same lines as the TIPH pictured above Keystone Archive

The head of the Swiss foreign ministry's political affairs division, Blaise Godet, has outlined his plans for a human rights monitoring force in the Middle East.

At a press conference in West Jerusalem on Thursday, the Swiss diplomat unveiled his plans to introduce a human rights watchdog in the Occupied Territories made up of Israeli, Palestinian and international monitors.

Switzerland is no stranger to human rights issues, being the depository state for the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians.

Suicide bombings

Godet’s seven-day long trip to the region coincided with some of the worst violence in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a bus in Jerusalem, killing 19 people and injuring many more. Just over 24 hours later, another suicide bomber killed six Israelis at a bus stop in the same city.

In response to the attacks, the Israeli army started reoccupying Palestinian-controlled towns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a bid to prevent further terror attacks.

Against this violent backdrop, Godet shared his human rights plans with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, in separate meetings.

At the press conference, however, Godet remained tight-lipped about the two men’s reaction to the plans.

“This proposal forms part of the current efforts to restart a dialogue between the two sides,” he said, adding that the human rights watchdog could be set up along the lines of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) monitoring body.

Arms trade

On a different note, Godet said the Swiss government had every intention of honouring the existing contracts it had with Israel to purchase arms. “Neither side wants to let this slip,” he said.

During his trip, which started last Friday, Godet has visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Palestinian territories and Israel. He is scheduled to present his plans to officials in Jordan and Lebanon, before returning home.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR