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UN calls on Israel to tear down security barrier

Israel's security barrier has been deemed illegal by the World Court and the UN General Assembly

(Keystone)

The United Nations General Assembly has demanded that Israel tear down its security barrier in the West Bank.

The resolution passed on Tuesday also calls on Switzerland to consider convening a meeting of the states party to the Geneva Conventions.

The vote, which is not legally binding, comes less than two weeks after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the security barrier was illegal and contravened humanitarian law.

Tuesday’s UN resolution - passed by 150 votes to six - calls for an end to the construction of the approximately 600km-long barrier, which Israel says is necessary to keep out suicide bombers.

All 25 European Union countries as well as Switzerland supported the Palestinian-drafted resolution, which was opposed by Israel, the United States and Australia.

Israel vowed on Wednesday to press ahead with construction of the barrier.

The country’s ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, described the resolution as “outrageous”, while US deputy ambassador James Cunningham said it could undermine the goal of a Middle East in which Israelis and Palestinians could live in peace.

But Palestinian UN observer Nasser al-Kidwa praised the vote as a "historic development" and called on member states to consider punitive measures against Israel.

Swiss role

The resolution softened a demand that Switzerland should convene a meeting of states party to the Geneva Conventions to ensure that they were being observed.

The final version said only that Switzerland should "conduct consultations" before reporting back to the UN on the possibility of "resuming the Conference of contracting parties to the fourth Geneva Convention".

The fourth Geneva Convention protects civilians during times of war.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, Switzerland said that it was ready as the custodian of the conventions to hold consultations with a view to convening a meeting.

“Switzerland will do its best with the difficult task which has been entrusted to it, with humility, realism and commitment,” said the Swiss ambassador to the UN, Jenö Staehelin.

An unnamed Swiss diplomat in New York said the country was under no time pressure to hold such a meeting.

In a ruling on July 9, the ICJ said the barrier was illegal because it cuts deep into West Bank land seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East War. The court demanded that Israel tear down what has been built and pay for damage caused by its construction.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Israel says the barrier is necessary to keep out suicide bombers.
Palestinians condemn it as a land grab aimed at dashing their hopes for an independent state.
Switzerland has opposed the barrier, arguing that it hampers the free movement of many Palestinians and cuts them off from their workplaces, farmland and schools.

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In brief

The United Nations General Assembly has demanded that Israel tear down its security barrier in the West Bank.

The resolution also calls on Switzerland to consider convening a meeting of the states party to the Geneva Conventions.

The resolution and request are not legally binding.

end of infobox


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