Tuesday 6 May 2008

Switzerland not invited to Israel’s 60th anniversary festivities

From the EJP

"Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has expressed disappointment that no one from the Swiss government has been invited to Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations.

Switzerland will be represented at the festivities through its ambassador in Tel Aviv, she told the Swiss ‘SonntagsZeitung’ newspaper.

"Personally, I am disappointed that our country was not invited at government level," she said.

Israeli President Shimon Peres has invited heads of state, ministers, scientists, philosophers and artists for a three-day conference to mark the Jewish state's 60th birthday on May 14.

Among those invited are President Bush, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, former Czech President Vaclav Havel, Abdurrahman Wahid, former president of Indonesia, a country that has no diplomatic ties with Israel, and Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.

The relationship between Israel and Switzerland has been strained since a recent visit by the Swiss Foreign Minister to Iran to witness the signing of a multibillion-dollar natural gas supply contract between Swiss company EGL and Iran's state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Company.

The deal prompted angry reactions from US Jewish groups because Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel.

Earlier this month the New York-based Anti-Defamation League took out full page adverts in Swiss and international newspapers describing Switzerland as "the world's newest financier of terrorism".

Israel had summoned the Swiss ambassador and lodged a complaint over the deal.

Alfred Donath, outgoing president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities said that by signing the gas deal Switzerland sent the wrong message at the wrong time.

But he called the Israeli measure towards Switzerland “exagerated.” Donath told EJP he regrets that "sixty years of friendship between Switzerland and Israel are deleted because of a gas deal." (...)

In March, Switzerland was the only European member of the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council to vote in favour of a resolution condemning the Israeli military action in Gaza. The action was prompted by Palestinian groups escalating their rocket attacks against Israeli cities."

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