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Swiss back fact-finding committee to investigate Middle East violence

President Clinton (centre) announced the creation of a fact finding committee at the summit in Egypt

(Keystone)

Switzerland says it is willing to support plans to set up a fact-finding committee to probe Israeli-Palestinian violence. President Clinton announced the creation of the committee after the two sides agreed a ceasefire at a peace summit in Egypt.

Clinton's announcement came as the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva was debating whether to set up an international inquiry to investigate the cause of violence in the West Bank and Gaza. Nearly 100 people, mainly Palestinians, have been killed in clashes in recent weeks.

Speaking in Egypt, Clinton said the United States, along with the UN, Israel and the Palestinians, would set up a committee to examine the violence and how to prevent it from happening again.

Swiss foreign ministry spokesman, Yasmine Chatila, told swissinfo: "Switzerland is ready to help the work of such a commission, provided it is independent and objective."

She added that Switzerland would also be willing to participate in such a commission.

Meanwhile, Switzerland's ambassador to the UN has strongly criticised Israel's conduct during the recent violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

Speaking at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission, François Nordmann attacked Israel's "repressive measures" towards the Palestinians, and said he was shocked at the number of Palestinian children killed in the fighting.

He added that the Geneva conventions applied in the occupied territories, and that Israel should respect them.

Arab countries attending the Geneva meeting joined in the condemnation of Israel, and repeated demands that an international commission be set up to investigate the causes of the violence.

The Arab League, represented by Tunisian ambassador, Hatem Ben-Salem, said a probe was needed to determine "the causes and responsibilities for crimes committed against Palestinians".

The Palestinian representative, Nabil Ramlawi, accused Israel of "war crimes and crimes against humanity", and put forward a resolution calling for "concrete measures to put an end to such violations... and bring the perpetrators to justice".

In response, Israel's ambassador, Yaakov Levy, blamed the Palestinians for the violence, and insisted that Israeli forces had exercised "all possible restraint".

He added that Israel was "not faced with peaceful demonstrators but rather with a coordinated escalation of violent confrontations".

swissinfo with agencies


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