(JTA) — The Czech Republic became the first European Union country to say it would boycott the United Nations-sponsored Durban III conference.
Shortly after the Czech Republic announced July 22 that it would not send a delegation to the Durban III conference set for Sept. 22 in New York, Italy and The Netherlands announced that they also would stay away.
The conference is marking the 10-year anniversary of the U.N.’s World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, during which the delegations from the United States and Israel walked out in protest as the tenor turned increasingly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
The Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic wanted to include in the final statement of the meeting in September "that all participating states emphatically distance themselves from the linking of subjects that have nothing to do with the fight against racism," but "because it is not possible to get such a guarantee, the three countries now see themselves forced to no longer participate in the preparations for the celebration, and also not to attend it, " The Netherlands Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement, according to NIS News.
Italy’s foreign minister cited anti-Israel political manipulation that made it impossible for Italy to attend the event. In a statement released Friday, France Frattini noted longstanding reservations about the "Durban process."
"The process has been transformed from a forum for debate on and coordination of international action against racism, discrimination and xenophobia into a tribunal for accusations against Israel," he said, adding that Italy had refused to take part in the Durban II conference in 2009 and voted against convening the 10th anniversary event.
Israel, the United States and Canada already have said they will not attend Durban III.
The countries that voted at the United Nations in November against the Durban III session were Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Among the countries abstaining were Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and Spain.
UN Watch, a nongovernmental organization affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, commended the Czech Republic for its decision.
“The Durban process was marked by ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and that is not something that should be commemorated,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer.