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Meeting called to protect civilians in war zones

Switzerland has said it is prepared to organise an international conference to find ways to better protect civilians in conflict zones.

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday adopted the Swiss resolution, which was put forward amid a debate on the controversial Goldstone Report.

Swiss UN ambassador Peter Maurer said the conference would be open to all states party to the Geneva Conventions.

The Swiss proposal came as the General Assembly voted to urge Israel and Palestinians to investigate war crime charges included in a report by South African judge Richard Goldstone on the Gaza War that began in late December last year.

Even though the non-binding resolution, drafted by Arab states, was overwhelmingly accepted (114-18), there were 44 abstentions. The plan divided European nations. Switzerland voted in favour but its neighbours Germany and Italy rejected it, while France and Britain abstained.

"The resolution is balanced and demands both sides make progress," Maurer told the Swiss News Agency.

The resolution is a response to the 575-page Goldstone Report on the Gaza War commissioned by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. It was published in September.

The report blasts both sides in the conflict, which killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, but was harsher towards Israel, which refused to cooperate with Goldstone.

The resolution follows Goldstone's call on Israel and "the Palestinian side" to undertake within three months credible investigations into the report's charges.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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