Swiss, Syrians negotiate at last minute over MDA symbol

The Syrian delegation to the International Red Cross Movement convention in Geneva unveiled on Tuesday a last-minute surprise before the vote to recognize a third, neutral symbol that would lead to the admission as a full member of Israel emergency rescue service, Magen David Adom. The Syrians said they would vote in favor of the third symbol only if Israel allows its "humanitarian workers into the occupied Golan Heights." Swiss representatives were negotiating with the Syrians late Monday night to resolve the matter. Yehiel Goldstein of the MDA mission told The Jerusalem Post from Geneva that he couldn't predict what would occur. "We are a non-governmental organization and have no mandate to make such a concession," he said, adding that Israel government representatives were present as well. "The Red Cross usually prefers a unanimous vote on such issues, and it's possible that such a Syrian demand, if not resolved, could prevent the vote from taking place. But I don't know what will happen," he said. According to Red Cross rules, the symbol could theoretically be voted in by a two-thirds majority. Only last week, the Palestinian Red Crescent signed an agreement with MDA officials stating their support for the new symbol if the Israeli rescue, first aid and blood supply organization recognizes the "right" of the PRC to treat Palestinians in the territories, while MDA has the "right" to treat Israelis in both Israel and the Palestinian areas. Now Syria is looking for a similar status so that the Syrian Red Crescent can help to up to 30,000 Syrians in the Israeli-held Golan Heights. "We want to get an Israeli commitment to us similar to what they did with the Palestinians," Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters during a break in the conference, whose aim was to satisfy Israel after MDA has waited nearly six decades for membership. Syrian delegates claimed they had the support of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. The move could delay until Wednesday the conference's decision on whether to adopt a red "crystal" emblem, which could be used as an alternative to the red cross or Muslim red crescent used by the organization's societies. Switzerland, as host of the Geneva Conventions on warfare and the Red Cross Movement, called the conference of the 192-nation treaty to consider the emblem. Itzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to international organizations in Geneva, said the first day's talks on Monday went well, despite Syria and Iran continuing to hold out. Meanwhile, Israeli-born magician Uri Geller, who is head of the MDA Friends Committee in Britain and is currently in Geneva, claimed he would "bend" the Syrians with his "powers" just as he is able to bend spoons.