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Israel, Syria in last-ditch efforts to remove obstacle to Jewish state joining Red Cross | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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GENEVA (AP) – Israeli and Syrian diplomats worked Wednesday to overcome a major obstacle to allowing the Jewish state to join the Red Cross movement.

Delegates to a special conference of the 192 members of the Geneva Conventions were meeting again Wednesday after it was extended for a third day.

&#34It”s going to be a long day,&#34 said Swiss Ambassador Blaise Godet, who is chairing the conference, which was originally scheduled to conclude on Tuesday.

Approval of a new emblem allowing Israel to join the Red Cross movement after nearly six decades of exclusion has been held up by Syria”s demand that its humanitarian workers have access to the occupied Golan Heights.

Israeli and Syrian diplomats, who have been exchanging proposed wording through Pakistani intermediaries, said there was more work to be done. The diplomatic conference aimed at bringing Israel into the Red Cross reconvened early Wednesday after it was temporarily broken off after midnight.

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.

The differences between Israel and Syria postponed a long-awaited decision by signatories of the Geneva Conventions on a &#34red crystal&#34 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 deal last week allowing each other”s paramedics to operate unmolested.

Now Syria wants a similar arrangement allowing the Syrian Red Crescent access to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Syria claimed it had the support of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. Iran told the conference it would vote against adopting an additional emblem for the sake of Israel, delegates said.

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 such a humanitarian issue.

Israel”s society will not operate under the cross or crescent. A request for recognition of its red Star of David was rejected 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.

The red cross was first adopted in 1863, 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.