Israel voiced concern over a planned meeting yesterday between the presidents of Switzerland and Iran as part of a controversial UN conference on racism in Geneva.
Ahead of the conference opening today, Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz was due to meet his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a dinner for conference participants yesterday.
“We are going to try to convince the Swiss president not to meet with Ahmadinejad,” Aharon Lechnoyaar, the Israeli representative at UN institutions in Geneva, told public radio.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yossi Levy described the UN meeting as a “tragic farce.”
“Officially it is aimed at denouncing racism, but it has invited a Holocaust denier who has called for the destruction of Israel,” Levy said.
Ahmadinejad’s attendance has sparked fears that the five-day meeting could end in acrimony, as did the previous event held eight years ago in Durban.
The Iranian president, who is so far the only prominent head of state due to attend the Durban Review Conference, has stirred outrage by repeatedly calling the Holocaust a “myth” and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.
Negotiators in Geneva said on Friday that Western and most Muslim states had agreed on a declaration that ironed out the most controversial issues relating to religious discrimination, Israel and the Middle East.
But on Saturday, Israel’s staunch ally the US said it would not join the conference because its final declaration still included language Washington was “unable to support.”
The US, along with Israel, walked out of the World Conference on Racism in Durban in 2001 after a row with some Muslim states about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and anti-Semitism.