Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) - Australia, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand and The United States have decided not to participate in the Durban Review Conference that starts today, 20 April, citing concerns that the meeting’s agenda contains anti-Semitic language. In some cases the participation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is being given as a reason for not participating. Geneva is centre stage for the meeting, a followup to the first Durban conference in South Africa in 2001, to discuss racial discrimination and xenophobia. Switzerland has come under pressure from other countries and its own media for hosting the conference.
The conference takes place 20-24 April at the United Nations Palace in Geneva.
Israel, which from the outset said it would boycott the event, has launched a publicity campaign against the conference and the presence of the Iranian President. An alternate conference is being led by Israeli Ambassador to Geneva Ronnie Lashno-Yaar.
Ahmadinejad arrived Sunday in Geneva and met Sunday evening with Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz. They discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and current international affairs.
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey explained yesterday on French television that such a meeting was appropriate given that the conference is taking place in Switzerland and given the country’s role as diplomatic intermediary between the United States and Iran. Switzerland’s participation in the Conference is uncertain at this point.