Swiss Hesitant in Preparations for 15th of July Conference

Preparations and new developments by various players have been ongoing towards the 15th July Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. The Swiss part of preparations, however, has generally been hesitant. Recently, the Swiss government decided to move consultations regarding the Conference from New York to Geneva. The Swiss also decided to form a "Group of Friends", with the participation of 26 States, to consult on the Conference. Both steps were taken without previous consultation and the exact guidelines for the composition of the group remain unclear. The Swiss also continued to raise questions about the Conference itself and issued a non-paper, which seemed to ignore the position of the majority and to advocate the idea of transforming the Conference into an informal meeting.

The Non-Aligned Movement’s (NAM) Coordinating Bureau, which is based in New York at U.N. headquarters, along with active participation by the Arab Group, considered the above-mentioned developments. A detailed position was adopted and was sent by the Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau, the Ambassador of South Africa to the U.N., to the Swiss Permanent Observer in New York. The detailed position reiterated the basic positions adopted earlier by the Movement and dealt with the new developments.

With regard to the Group of Friends, the Movement believed that it should deal with the procedural aspects of the Conference. It was noted that resolution ES-10/6 gave a mandate to the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the depositary of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to undertake whatever preparations are necessary prior to the Conference. The Coordinating Bureau also decided that the Committee on Palestine would convene open-ended meetings for the purpose of regular follow-up of the Conference. The Committee has in fact already held two meetings. Further, the Bureau decided that the rules of procedure of the Diplomatic Conference of 1977 should serve as the basis for discussion on the rules to be adopted for the upcoming conference.

Palestine, as well as NAM, expressed readiness to discuss the prospective outcome of the Conference with other political groups and interested parties, both bilaterally and multilaterally. They also affirmed their intention to adhere to legal matters and not to politicize the Conference. Moreover, they affirmed their desire to work with others to achieve a consensus or to at least achieve broad agreement with regard to the results of the Conference. At this stage, in general, it is hoped that the Swiss and interested parties will move forward with regard to practical aspects of the Conference, as well as the possible outcomes. The U.N. International Meeting on the Convening of the Conference, which was held in Cairo on 14 and 15 June 1999, was convened to assist in the discussion and development of prospective outcomes for the Conference. (See article in this issue.)

[For an updated, comprehensive report on developments regarding the upcoming Conference, visit our web site section on the 10th Emergency Special Session and select the subsection on Conference of States Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention and the Background Paper on Attempts to Convene a Conference on Enforcement Measures.]