Conference snubbed by the United States, Israel, Australia, and Canada over blatant anti-Israel bias.
Over 120 states participating in the Geneva Convention conference on Wednesday called Israel to respect human rights in the Palestinian territories including the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
A conference on respect for international human rights in the Palestinian territories was shunned by Israel and the United States, as well as Canada and Australia.
Switzerland gathered diplomats from 126 of the 196 signatories of the Geneva Conventions to discuss protections for civilians, fulfilling a five-year-old request for such a conference from the UN General Assembly.
Israel is boycotting the one-day talks and has accused host Switzerland of contributing to the politicization of the Geneva Conventions on the laws of war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lambasted the gathering over what he said were hypocrisy and anti-Israeli bias.
“Today we witnessed staggering examples of European hypocrisy,” Netanyahu said. “In Geneva they call for the investigation of Israel for war crimes.”
The Palestinians have warned that they may seek to sign up to the International Criminal Court and have threatened to file a suit against Israel over its July-August war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in which more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed.
The conference is being held in response to a recommendation from the UN General Assembly at the request of Palestinian authorities, and all 196 signatories of the Geneva Conventions have been invited.
But it comes amid mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, and the same day as the Palestinians intend to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council in New York on ending the Israeli occupation.
Heading into the closed-door talks held in a UN building in Geneva, the Palestinian envoy to the UN Human Rights Council said he wanted to send a “strong message for respect of humanitarian rights”.
“I hope this will be helpful to remind the Israelis of their obligations to respect the Geneva Conventions,” Ibrahim Khraishi told reporters.
The conference is expected to be attended by permanent representatives to the UN in Geneva, although Swiss officials confirmed that US diplomats would not attend.
The meeting is devoted to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone, and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter said the objective was “to advance the cause of international humanitarian law”.
The UN General Assembly passed a resolution in 2009 asking Switzerland to lead consultations on holding a conference. The consultations were suspended in 2011 before being re-launched in July.
Kerry seeks to stave off crisis at UN
The Palestinians are also planning to press ahead Wednesday with a UN bid to boost their hopes of statehood, despite a warning that the US will block the move, officials said.
“We will submit our project to the UN Security Council tomorrow,” a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told AFP late Tuesday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has held three days of intense talks in Europe seeking to head off a pre-Christmas crisis at the UN Security Council.
But the Palestinians told him that they would go ahead as planned, receiving a sharp warning from Kerry that the US would veto the resolution, another Palestinian official said.
In an escalating battle of wills, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat shot back that if Washington uses its veto to scupper their plans, the Palestinians would then apply to join a series of international organizations.
They include the International Criminal Court, another move opposed by Washington which fears the Palestinians will seek to try Israeli officials for alleged war crimes.
Kerry had earlier called for caution, saying nothing should be allowed to “interfere” with preparations for snap elections in Israel in March.
Asked what kind of resolution Washington might be able to support at the UN, Kerry insisted the US administration has “made no determinations… about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that.”
Luxembourg’s parliament also voted Wednesday to urge the government to recognize a Palestinian state — the latest in a series of similar moves around Europe aimed at pressuring Israel to move forward the peace process.
The motion, filed by the socialist head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, called on Prime Minister Xavier Bettel’s government to “formally recognize a Palestinian state under the 1967 frontiers, and solely modified in accord with both parties.”
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