Germany preparing to quit Durban II

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany appears to be preparing to ditch the Durban II anti-racism conference for being an attack on Israel.

A spokesman for German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, however, that Germany wants joint European action as well. That may come this week, after foreign ministers have a chance to review a revised conference resolution due to be distributed late Monday or Tuesday.

Sources at the chancellery confirmed to JTA that Germany was on the verge of dropping its effort to influence the draft resolution.

The Durban Review Conference is scheduled to take place at the end of April in Geneva.

Steinmeier said Monday in Brussels that he would call for a joint European Union withdrawal from the event if the resolution document retains its one-sided critique of the Middle East conflict, the German Foreign Ministry spokesperson told JTA in a telephone interview from Belgium.

EU foreign ministers are due to meet again Thursday in Brussels, and a German decision on Durban II will come soon afterward, the spokesperson predicted.

"Our basic position is that we don’t want to have a world conference on racism be misused as a platform to make one-sided judgments on the Middle East conflict," the spokesperson said, adding that Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and others were supportive. "With our own history, this is the most important point. And if that is not changed, it will be difficult to take part in an event like this. We won’t do it."

The United States, Israel, Canada and Italy have said they would not attend the review conference, a follow-up to the U.N.’s 2001 World Conference Against Racism held in South Africa that was widely seen as having turned into an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish forum.

Meanwhile, a group of German political activists issued a statement Monday saying it had given up hope of a rescue for the resolution, which they said demonizes Israel while ignoring discrimination in other countries. The group includes the Caucus of Jewish Social Democrats, the Federal Working Group "Shalom" of Left Party Youth and JUSOS, the youth branch of the Social Democrats.

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