EU threatens boycott of 'Durban II' conference

Czech FM: European countries are "very skeptical" over direction of conference, strong push to withdraw.

Durban 248.88 ap (photo credit: )
Durban 248.88 ap
(photo credit: )
The Czech European Union presidency said Monday there is a "strong European call to withdraw" from the upcoming "Durban II" Geneva United Nations conference on racism if final documents do not take into consideration the EU's suggestions. At a press conference after a meeting in Brussels of the 27 EU foreign ministers, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg declared: "We had a thorough discussion about the Durban II conference. The main voices were very skeptical about the direction the final papers are prepared." "The EU will probably send its own suggestions," he added. "If the conference papers will realign with these suggestions then we will stay, otherwise there is a strong call to withdraw." The Geneva conference is scheduled to take place April 20-24. Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said his country would not attend unless "radical changes" were made to the draft text, which includes what he has called "aggressive and anti-Semitic statements." Israel, the US and Canada have also said they fear the UN talks will be marred by attempts to attack Israel and shield Islamic countries from criticism over their records. Washington has imposed conditions similar to those of the EU nations, and Israel and Canada have already announced they will boycott. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned the Geneva meeting "might be abused to produce one-sided statements" about the Middle East peace process and European and American policy in the Muslim and Arab world. "I am in favor of canceling participation in the conference, unless the documents are changed substantially within the next hours and days," said Steinmeier. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said a draft backed by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference "limits itself to Israel-bashing, anti-Semitism, limiting freedom of speech and other dubious texts."