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US and Israel likely to boycott Geneva meeting

Israeli tanks have occupied several Palestinian towns Keystone Archive

The United States and Israel look set to boycott a Swiss organised conference aimed at enforcing humanitarian law in the Palestinian territories.

This content was published on November 9, 2001 - 08:48

In a statement, Israel's diplomatic mission in Geneva criticised the meeting - planned for December 5 - as an attempt to use humanitarian law as a "blunt tool for political attacks" against Israel.

It added that the conference would also "undermine" Middle East peace efforts.

Switzerland is organising the meeting because it is the repository state of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which guarantees protection of civilians during war or military occupation and lays down rules on access to food, medical care, places of religious worship and education.

The United States and Israel stayed away from a similar session in July 1999, which declared that the Convention, which has been ratified by 189 states, should be applied to all Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

Intifada

The forthcoming meeting was requested by the Arab League and a majority of states in the United Nations general assembly, following the Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, last year.

Israel is expected to come under fire for alleged abuses in the occupied territories during the 13-month Intifada or uprising, in which at least 700 Palestinians and 185 Israelis have been killed.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Bern was quoted as saying that, although a final decision on American participation has not yet been taken, "the US has said all along it doesn't support the idea of a meeting".

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations said in a statement that convening the conference was "obscene, outrageous and will prove counterproductive".

"The obscenity is compounded by the fact that the Convention was adopted to address the Nazi atrocities against Jews and others," the statement added. "The manipulation for narrow political purposes of this very important moral declaration must be condemned and stopped."

Israel says it observes the humanitarian provisions of the Convention but disputes that it legally applies to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip which it says were under no legitimate rule when they were captured in the 1967 war.

swissinfo with agencies

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