Government under pressure to make decision on Durban

By Leon Symons, March 19, 2009
Being lobbied: Lord Malloch-Brown

Being lobbied: Lord Malloch-Brown

Britain will wait until the last minute before making a decision about whether or not it will participate in the Durban Review Conference in Geneva (Durban II) next month.

The prediction came from Board of Deputies’ president Henry Grunwald when he briefed deputies on the latest situation at Sunday’s plenary meeting in Oxford.

“I actually think the UK will withdraw but will wait for a while before doing so, so no-one can say they have scuppered this conference,” said Mr Grunwald.

He told deputies that he had written to Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch-Brown, who said at the London Conference on Antisemitism last month that there were “red lines” that the government would not cross with regard to Durban II.

“We have lobbied the British government to withdraw. There are ‘red lines’ and we think those lines have been crossed. I wrote to him and I am seeking a meeting with him. If they have been crossed, the government should keep the word it has given to us on many occasions and we will keep up the pressure,” said Mr Grunwald.

“The arguments are continuing. The Board is actively involved with other Jewish organisations in this country in trying to see if anything can be salvaged from what should be a very important international conference,” he added.

“But we are coming to the conclusion that it is beyond redemption. The concern was and remains that the Durban Review Conference will be a repeat of the original Durban Conference in 2001, which turned into a hate-fest.”

So far Israel, Canada and Italy have withdrawn. The US has said it would take part only if the final document is changed and it is pessimistic about the outcome.

    Last updated: 1:27pm, March 19 2009