Canada, Australia boycott ‘anti-Israel’ Geneva conference

US also set to stay away from Swiss summit on Fourth Geneva Convention and situation in Palestinian areas

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Flags outside the UN's Palais de Nations in Geneva. (photo credit: CC BY kevingessner, Flickr)
Flags outside the UN's Palais de Nations in Geneva. (photo credit: CC BY kevingessner, Flickr)

Canada and Australia announced that they would not attend a Geneva Convention conference hosted by Switzerland on the situation in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem Wednesday.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement Tuesday that “Canada has conveyed its deep concerns and has communicated clearly that it will neither attend this conference nor lend it any credibility.”

The conference had been planned by Switzerland to discuss the Fourth Geneva Convention and the situation in the Palestinian areas, despite American and Israeli pressure to cancel it.

Last week, Israel voiced strong opposition to the Swiss government’s decision to convene the conference, saying the move brought into question Bern’s historic neutrality.

Baird said that the conference risked undermining the credibility of the Geneva conventions.

“Canada is deeply disappointed by the convening of this one-sided and politicized conference, which serves only to single out one country, Israel, for criticism. Canada has complete faith in the strength of the rule of law in Israel, and we believe the Israelis are capable of investigating matters surrounding the events that took place in Gaza in the summer of 2014.”

“Such a misguided approach will neither serve the cause of peace nor bring the parties closer to a negotiated settlement.”

Australia’s ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma tweeted Tuesday night that his country would also stay away from the conference.

Senior Israeli officials told the Haaretz daily last week that they expected the US to boycott the summit.

All 196 UN member states are signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is often used in citing the illegality of Israeli settlements. In April 2014, the Palestinian Authority signed accession to the treaty.

The three-hour meeting of state ambassadors will be closed to the media, after which a communiqué will be issued, Haaretz reported. According to the paper, the conference “wasn’t expected to make any operative or binding decisions, but may intensify international criticism of Israeli policy” in the West Bank.

The Foreign Ministry condemned the decision to hold the summit, calling it “a political move whose sole aim is to utilize the important stage of the Geneva Conventions for the sake of denigrating Israel.

“Israel, of course, won’t take part in the conference, in addition to other states that clarified their objection to the Swiss government,” the Foreign Ministry statement said, without mentioning which states.

The Foreign Ministry said it was reevaluating Switzerland’s stances on other international humanitarian law issues in light of its decision to hold the meeting.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report. 

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