Italian foreign minister: Israel and Jews ‘key plank’ in foreign policy

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The foreign minister of Italy said his country’s "friendship with the state of Israel and the Jewish people is a key plank of our foreign policy."

Speaking at the American Jewish Committee’s annual meeting on Thursday evening, Franco Frattini also discussed his country’s decision to boycott last month’s so-called Durban II conference on racism held in Geneva.

The Obama administration joined Jewish groups and several other countries in boycotting the U.N. sponsored Durban Review Conference because of the failure of organizers to persuasively disassociate the conference from its 2001 predecessor in Durban, South Africa, which devloved into an anti-Jewish and anti-Israel forum.

"We could not legitimize a message of hate," Frattini said. He said his country’s decision not to attend was designed to "strengthen the legitimacy" and "credibility of the United Nations."

But Frattini said the conference was a "missed opportunity" because "Europe was divided and hesitant."

"The European Union must learn to speak with one voice," he said. Frattini also said he hoped the United States’ decision to become a candidate for membership in the UN’s Human Rights Council "is a sign there could be room" for the body to improve its role and become depoliticized.

He also said Israel’s "right to security and to defend itself is strictly non-negotiable and that Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is "not acceptable."

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