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Palestinians join Geneva Conventions on war rules – Switzerland

Published time: April 11, 2014 20:08
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) arrives for an Arab Foreign Ministers' meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo April 9, 2014. (Reuters / Asmaa Waguih)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) arrives for an Arab Foreign Ministers' meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo April 9, 2014. (Reuters / Asmaa Waguih)

The Palestinian Authority has formally joined the Geneva conventions which outline the rules of war and military occupation, the Swiss government stated on Friday. Palestinians first sought membership 25 years ago.

On Thursday the UN said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had accepted for deposit a Palestinian request to join 13 internationally binding conventions and treaties. Tel Aviv claims the Palestinians seeking membership is in breach of conditions of the ongoing peace talks.

The Palestine Liberation Organization first requested that Palestine join the Geneva Conventions on June 21, 1989. However, the Swiss Foreign Ministry stated at the time that it could not decide on the outcome of the application as the existence or non-existence of a State of Palestine was still contested.

On Nov. 29, 2012 the UN General Assembly ‘upgraded’ Palestine, making it a “non-member observer state” of the UN.

The Palestinian Authority professed that it was party to the internationally-binding agreements as of April 2, said Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, reported AFP. Switzerland, as their depositary, recognized that “the state of Palestine” also acceded, as of April 2.

Israel has vehemently opposed the move, which is widely seen as part of a renewed diplomatic drive by Palestinian authorities as peace talks are on the brink of collapsing. Israel argues that there is no universally acknowledged Palestinian state and that the move could throw peace talks into further jeopardy.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas confirmed that he had received a letter from the Swiss government on Thursday confirming that Palestine would be party to the agreements, and called it a “historic day for the Palestinian people”.

The Palestinian letters of accession were sent shortly after Israel failed to meet the March deadline for a planned prisoner release. Palestine said that it would put any moves to seek UN treaty membership on hiatus as peace talks were underway, providing the veteran Arab prisoners were released.

Peace talks have caused a great deal of political tension in Israel despite attempts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to oversee the process. Right wing coalition members disagree with the notion of Palestinian sovereignty.

On Friday, a partner in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government threatened to quit the government if peace talks resulted in the release of Israeli-Arab prisoners. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett who heads up the Jewish Home party stated that: “The emerging deal, if it includes the release of murderers with Israeli citizenship, damages Israeli sovereignty,” according to AFP.

“If the proposal passes, the Jewish Home will quit the government,” he added. However, anonymous senior members of Netanyahu's cabinet told the agency that the threats were empty.

Israel imposed additional economic sanctions against Palestine in response to its unilateral decision to join the international conventions.

“It has been decided to freeze the transfer to the Palestinian Authority of the taxes collected by Israel on its behalf,” an Israeli official told AFP. Reuters too confirmed the reports adding that Tel Aviv will deduct “debt payments” from tax transfers which the Palestinians receive. Israel will also place a limit on Palestinian bank deposits in Israel.

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