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Kerry: With global anti-Semitism on the rise, Israel's voice must be heard everywhere
By TOVAH LAZAROFF AND JPOST.COM STAFF
03/12/2013
US secretary of state welcomes Israel's "overdue" invitation to regional group at UN Human Rights Council.
 
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday welcomed Israel’s inclusion into the United Nation’s Western Eastern and Others Group in Geneva, a move that grants it national rights at the UN’s Human Rights Council.

"At a time when the scourge of global anti-Semitism is on the rise, it is more important than ever for Israel to have a strong voice that can be heard everywhere," Kerry said.

The secretary, who is due to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, issued his statement hours after the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem received a formal invitation to join WEOG.

Kerry welcomed Israel's restored ties with the UN Human Rights council.

Kerry's comments came in a statement welcoming Israel into the Western European and Others Group of nations in Geneva Monday- a move that grants it national rights at the Human Rights Council.

Israel cut ties with the UNHRC in March 2012 to protest what it said was anti-Israel bias by that body, which had censured it more than any other country.

Israel is expected to formally re-establish full ties with the Human Rights Council now that it has received the invitation to the Western European and Others Group in Geneva.

All 193 United Nations member states are divided into regional groupings in New York and Geneva, through which elections are held for various UN organizations and bodies.

Arab nations barred Israel from participating in the Asian group, which it geographically falls into.

Israel was accepted instead into the WEOG group in New York, but those same countries did not allow Israel to join their regional group in Geneva.

Israel made acceptance to WEOG in Geneva one of two conditions for ending its boycott of the UNHRC.

"Israeli membership in the WEOG in Geneva is overdue, and we welcome the decision to invite Israel to join beginning January 1, 2014," Kerry stated.

"This is a particularly welcome development as we work to end anti-Israel bias in the UN system. We will continue to speak out for our close ally, Israel, and we will continue to support efforts to normalize Israel’s treatment across the UN system as a full and equal member of the community of nations," he added.

Aharon Leshno Yaar, the Foreign Ministry deputy director general for UN and International Organizations, said that “Israel is now a full member of the regional group in the Human Rights Council and that means we can play a bigger role in the human rights activities in Geneva.”

Israel had agreed in October to participate in the UNHRC’s Universal Period Review of its human rights record, but said it was waiting for an invitation from WEOG before it would formally re-establish ties.

Monday’s invitation allows it to return to the UNHRC. Yaar explained that as WEOG members Israel can “elect and be elected to positions in the UNHRC. It means that Israel will be able to participate in related activities such as meetings with senior UN officials. Invitations to such meetings goes through the [regional] groups,” Yaar said.

“The invitation to WEOG was the end of many months of serious diplomatic effort by the foreign ministry and our missions in friendly countries; especially in European countries, in Canada and the US,” Yaar said.

“The UNHRC without Israel is a flawed institution. Now with Israel fully engaged it will have greater credibility. Israel will also enjoy the recognition of being a full member of the community of nations,” Yaar said.

In agreeing to reengage with the UNHRC, Israel accepted a compromise on its second demand, the elimination of “Agenda Item seven”.

This is a standing item, under which Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is debated at every UNHRC session. No other country, but Israel, is automatically scheduled into the UNHRC agenda.

Yaar said that the EU and other friends of Israel have decided “to limit significantly their involvement in discussions under ‘Agenda Item seven’.”
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