Africa states to raise Palestinian issue at UN forum

UN Watch in the News

Reuters, August 26, 2008

ABUJA, Aug 26 (Reuters) — African countries recommended on Tuesday that a U.N. forum on racism next year discuss concerns over the treatment of Palestinians in the Middle East, an issue that has led some countries to consider not participating.

The controversial topic marred a previous U.N. conference on racism in 2001 when Israel and the United States walked out in protest over a draft text branding Israel as a racist and apartheid state — language that was later dropped.

Officials from 21 African states met in Nigeria’s capital Abuja for talks ahead of a U.N. meeting in Geneva next April to chart progress in the global fight against racism since the landmark conference seven years ago in Durban.

The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance was meant to lay down a blueprint for nations to address the issues.

Canada said earlier this year it would not take part in the follow-up forum in Geneva next April because it was likely to descend into “regrettable anti-Semitism”.

Participants at the talks in Abuja unanimously adopted a text which raised “concern about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupations”.

“It is only one paragraph that mentions the Palestinians, so the interest of Israel was never badly damaged,” Ibrahim Wani, from the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said after the 3-day talks in Abuja.

Human rights activists criticized African countries for choosing to highlight the Palestinian issue but at the same time ignore “racist crimes” in Sudan, South Africa and Kenya.

“All of these African victims, and millions more in the future, are harmed by the conference’s failure to ensure accountability for crimes committed in African countries,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch.

African countries recommended that the U.N. conference discuss possible reparations for slavery, a topic that also sparked controversy at the 2001 summit.

Copyright 2008, Reuters

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