Syria demands access to Golan in exchange for Israel joining Red Cross |

Syria demands access to Golan in exchange for Israel joining Red Cross

GENEVA – Approval of a new emblem allowing Israelis to join the Red Cross movement was held up Tuesday by Syria’s demand that Israel allow its humanitarian workers into the occupied Golan Heights.The move delayed until at least Wednesday a decision by the 192 signatories of the Geneva Conventions on a “red crystal” emblem that Israeli paramedics could use in place of the red cross or Muslim red crescent.Israel’s Magen David Adom – or Red Shield of David – and the Palestine Red Crescent struck a mutual recognition deal last week letting each other’s paramedics operate unmolested. Now Syria wants a similar arrangement allowing the Syrian Red Crescent to help an estimated 30,000 Syrians in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”We want to get a similar Israeli commitment to us similar to what they did with the Palestinians,” Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said during a break in a conference aimed at bringing Israel into the Red Cross after nearly six decades of exclusion.Syria claimed it had the support of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. And a Slovenian representative said Tuesday that Iran had told the conference that it would vote against adopting an additional emblem for the sake of Israel.Holdouts could spoil hopes for unanimous acceptance of the new emblem. A two-thirds majority vote was theoretically possible but delegates said it was undesirable.”On a humanitarian issue, there should be consensus,” said Mohammad Abu-Koash, Palestinian ambassador to international organizations in Geneva. “Once people start voting on this, it would make for ugly scenes.”Switzerland, which is hosting the conference in its role as depository state of the Geneva Conventions, said that progress between the Israeli and Syrian societies was insufficient to move forward on Tuesday.”There is no agreement yet,” said Antonella Notari, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Participants were told to reconvene Wednesday.Israel’s society will not operate under the cross or crescent. A request for recognition of its red Star of David was voted down in 1949 and Arab countries have since blocked attempts to find an alternative emblem.The new design – a red square standing on one corner, with a blank white interior and a thick red border – would be used by Israeli medics instead of the Star of David. Magen David Adom could place a red star in the center of the crystal for humanitarian missions at home, or abroad if a host country allowed it.Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s ambassador to international organizations in Geneva, said the first day’s talks Monday went well despite Syrian and Iranian objections.The red cross was first adopted in 1863, when Swiss humanitarians founded the movement to care for war victims. It reverses the colors of the neutral Swiss flag, without any religious intent.But most Muslim countries refused to use it and the Ottoman empire used the red crescent instead to protect medical workers in the 1876 Russo-Turkish war.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism