In the afternoon today, the mission of Switzerland hosted a meeting on the upcoming Durban Review Conference. Swiss diplomat Muriel Berset said Switzerland is satisfied with the document in its current form as it meets the state’s three requirements, meaning that Switzerland could accept the document as it is. She said it will not be making any new suggestions, but will respond to amendments proposed, and also urged all parties to refrain from bringing new language or ideas into the document.
She also recalled an article on the Swiss penal code that prohibits incitement to racial and religious hatred and called for all public events to be held in a civil manner and in respect to Swiss legislation.
The Russian facilitator and drafter of the latest Durban II text, Yuri Boychenko, was also present. He said he understands the text is not perfect, but he feels it is balanced and good basis from which to work. He said that there are about 15-20 paragraphs which will be the focus of negotiations in next week’s meetings on the text. He does not intend to reopen each paragraph for renegotiation. He explained that there will be no set program of work for the next week. We will know the schedule for the day or for the next half day, and he may have to suspend the meeting on several occasions in order to switch from a formal meeting to an informal meeting and vice versa. He said his priority to have, by the end of next week, a more or less final document that can be adopted by consensus. In that case, a parallel drafting committee during the conference will not be necessary.
On the countries that boycott the process, he said the U.S. and Israel remain skeptical, especially for paragraph 1 that reaffirms the 2001 Durban text, but if they decide to return to the process, they would be more than welcome. (He has not heard any reactions from Canada).
On the Middle East, Yuri said he was surprised at how quickly the issue was resolved, which is why he thanked Palestine earlier today. He also said: It is up to those people who are neighbors in that region and the Palestinian people to come up with a solution, not to condemn them with a few lines or paragraphs in the document. When someone from the Arab Commission for Human Rights complained about the inclusion of the Holocaust, but the removal of the Palestinian issue, the Swiss delegate responded: I regret to hear you say unbalanced, and then establish a parrarel between the Shoah and situation of occupation. Our guidelines are quite clear. There are other dramatic situations in the world that could be alluded to.