Australian PM: We won't attend Durban III conference

Gillard says Australia hasn't been convinced that UN-backed meeting will avoid unbalanced criticism of Israel, airing of anti-Semitic views.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
August 23, 2011 17:37
2 minute read.
Australian PM Julia Gillard

julia gillard australian pm 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Australia will not attend the Durban III conference, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s spokesman announced on Tuesday.

“Australia remained involved in the early stages of consultation on the high-level meeting in order to oppose attempts to endorse extreme language or explicit references to the text of the Durban Declaration,” a spokesperson for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

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“But we have not been convinced that the high-level meeting will avoid unbalanced criticism of Israel and the airing of anti-Semitic views,” explained the spokesman, saying that Australia could not “support a meeting that chooses to reaffirm the original Durban Declaration, as appears likely.”

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The high-level meeting on the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action was scheduled to take place at the United Nations in New York City on September 22.

The conference was organized to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Durban I conference, which took place in Durban, South Africa. It was widely denounced as an anti- Semitic, UN-sponsored event that singled out Jews and Israel in order to attack them, including calls to eliminate Israel.

The United States, Canada, Israel, Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands already announced plans to boycott Durban III.

Germany in particular has come under a lot of pressure to denounce the conference.

Dieter Graumann, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany told the DAPD wire service that the “German government has up until now remained silent,” and the Durban III conference is a “festival of hostility toward Jews.” He said “Germany ought to not give this campaign of hate the appearance of legitimacy.”



Graumann highlighted the presence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Durban II conference in Geneva in 2009. Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and called for Israel’s destruction.

The American Jewish Committee on Tuesday lauded the decision and called on other nations to follow suit.

“AJC applauds the principled decision of the Australian government, led by Prime Minister Gillard, to skip next month’s event,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Australia is a vibrant, multicultural country committed to the struggle against racism. Like the other nations that have decided not to participate, however, Canberra understood clearly that this UN initiative had been hijacked at its inception 10 years ago by those seeking to turn it into yet another forum for bashing Israel.

“Our hope is that other democratic nations will consider the laudable position of Australia, and the other six countries, and reach a similar conclusion, thus further denying the September 22 gathering the legitimacy it seeks.”

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