NEW YORK – Israel scored a diplomatic success on Friday when the Czech Republic announced its intention to join the boycott of the upcoming United Nations conference on racism dubbed Durban III.
The country of some 10 million inhabitants said its representatives would not take part in the international gathering slated to take place on September 22 in New York City, citing concerns that it would be used as a platform to make “unacceptable statements with anti- Jewish connotations,” the online Prague Daily Monitor reported.
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“The Czech Republic will not attend the September top-level meeting and will not participate in any informal talks designed to pass a political declaration that is to ensue from them,” the Foreign Ministry in Prague was quoted as saying.
Israel and some Western countries have been deeply critical of the series of UNsponsored conferences on racism ever since participants at the first such gathering held at Durban, South Africa, in 2001 tried to equate Zionism with racism and pass several other controversial motions. Israel, the US and Canada walked out of that event in protest, saying its agenda had been hijacked.
The second conference on racism held in Geneva in 2007 and dubbed Durban II was boycotted by 10 nations including the Czech Republic.
Delegates from more than 30 countries walked out of the room during a speech delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Czech Republic is one of the Jewish state’s closest allies in Europe. Its decision to boycott Durban III places it alongside Israel, the US and Canada that have announced their intention to eschew participation in the event.
UN Watch on Friday commended the Czech Republic and called on other UN member states to follow suit.
“The Durban process has been marked by ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and that is not something that should be commemorated,” UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said. “We are further concerned by the timing and venue, given that New York will have just held solemn 10-year memorials for those murdered in the September 11 terrorist attacks.”
The NGO noted that Italy and the Netherlands issued a joint statement at a UN meeting on June 24 that was deeply critical of the upcoming conference.
The American Jewish Committee also praised Prague for its decision not to participate in Durban III.
“The Czech Republic has once again demonstrated leadership in the European Union by taking this principled position to skip the 10- year commemoration of the notorious anti-Israel spectacle in Durban,” AJC Executive Director David Harris said. “The global struggle against racism, so needed in today’s world, has been repeatedly hijacked by countries with little actual regard for human rights and whose primary goal is to distract attention from themselves and advance anti-Israel agendas.”