British Government confirms withdrawal from Durban III

UK Foreign Secretary says “conference, and anti-Semitic atmosphere in which it was held, was particularly unpleasant, divisive chapter in UN history."

September 15, 2011 19:55
2 minute read.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

LONDON – The British government confirmed on Thursday that the UK will not take part in the UN-sponsored Durban III anti-racism conference on September 22.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the original Durban conference 10 years ago had been an ugly affair.

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“The conference, and the anti-Semitic atmosphere in which it was held, was a particularly unpleasant and divisive chapter in the UN’s history. It is not an event that should be celebrated,” he said.

“The British government remains fully committed to tackling all forms of racism, both domestically and internationally, something recognized by the recent report of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,” Hague said.

“The UN is the right place to discuss these important issues, in a serious way that delivers genuine progress. The UK continues our work with the UN to implement many of the commitments from the 2001 World Conference Against Racism.”

Ten of the UN’s 193 member nations have now joined Israel in pulling out of Durban III: the UK, Germany, the US, Canada, Italy, Austria, Australia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

Critics of the conference have noted that its organizers have generally overlooked human-rights abuses in Arab countries.

“It is indeed a wise decision on the part of the British government to pull out of the conference. Durban is an ‘anti-racism’ conference in the way that Soviet-funded ‘peace studies’ departments were committed to Cold War coexistence,” said Michael Weiss, spokesman for the influential London think tank The Henry Jackson Society.

“It will be interesting, for instance, to see what this year’s conference has to say about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ethnic cleansing of [the Syrian city of] Latakia,” Weiss said.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron said that he did not want the UK to take part in an event with anti-Semitic associations.

“No one should be in any doubt: This government is 100 percent committed to tackling racism both at home and abroad,” he said. “But those aims cannot be met by accepting this invitation.”

Cameron added that the 2001 World Conference against Racism (Durban I) saw “open displays” of “deplorable anti-Semitism,” and said it would be “wrong” to engage in such events.

“It would be wrong to commemorate those displays. Indeed, they should be condemned. That is why the UK will play no part in this conference,” Cameron said.

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