September 7, 2001, Durban —
Deadlocked on Mideast
South Africa is chairing a working group of European Union members and Arab nations seeking to craft compromise language on the Middle East. Draft text, which included language calling for a "Right of Return" for Palestinian refugees but fell short of condemning Israel, was rejected by the Arab states on Thursday. Palestinian U.N. representative Nasser Al-Kidwa continues to maintain that "there is not solution," and that the Palestinian delegation "will not compromise."
As of this writing, the concluding session of the conference commenced with over 60 paragraphs of the Conference Declaration still unresolved. Currently, the two major contested issues, the Middle East and reparations for slavery, are being dealt with in closed working groups. South African President Thabo Mbeki is under pressure to leave Durban to attend the funeral of his father tomorrow, yet there is no end in sight to discussions over language to address the Middle East.
Robinson Calls NGO Language Inappropriate
Nearly a week after the participating nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) ratified a separate document with highly incendiary language and anti-Israel statements, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson met today with NGOs clarify her stance on the document. Calling the language accusing Israel of acts such as genocide "inappropriate and unacceptable," Robinson said she "could not recommend the document to the government delegates in its entirety," but that she "has not rejected it" either. She noted that the document includes some very good proposals on areas such as hate crimes, indigenous peoples and caste issues, but regrets several "inappropriate and unhelpful" paragraphs. The usual procedure would be for the Conference head to officially "recommend" the NGO resolution to the government conference.