Like many Western countries, Estonia withdrew from participating in a high-level conference at the UN dedicated to the anniversary of the Durban Declaration. In recent years a number of anti-Isreal comments have been made at the conference.
"Considering the Durban conference and the inappropriate anti-Semitic rhetoric that followed it, Estonia, like most of the European Union's partners, has decided not to participate in this meeting," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Aari Lemmik told ERR.
The Riigikogus' Foreign Affairs Committee also made a recommendation not to participate in the forum earlier this month, noting that anti-Semitic statements had been made there in the past.
"The first conference in 2001, which was to bring together international forces to combat racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, has now become an arena where countries that violate human rights can take a racist stance," Marko Mihkelson, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
"History shows that the event may be used for the wrong purpose. Therefore, it is only right that Estonia, as a member of the UN Security Council, will not participate in the forthcoming conference and will oppose anti-Semitic statements together with its allies," he added.
The conference, to be held at UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday, is dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, and the declaration adopted there.
However, the Durban Conference, which was originally designed to combat all forms of discrimination, became a forum for confrontation between anti-Israel and Western democracies, even in the run-up to its preparation.
Absence from the conference has been reported by more than ten European Union countries, including France, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel and Australia. The Israel news portal i24news reported to its country's UN envoy Gilad Erdan that the conference will be boycotted by 31 countries, far more than ever before.
"The main content of the Durban Declaration is the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This is an important issue for many countries and peoples, including Estonia, and for this reason, Estonia has participated in the follow-up to the Durban Conference in recent years," Lemmik said.
"The issue of combating racism remains important for Estonia. Estonia is a party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). This convention is central to Estonia's fight against racism and Estonia will continue to fulfill its commitments," she confirmed.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center), who is participating in the opening week of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, will have bilateral meetings with ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Kosovo, as well as the Syrian opposition and the American Jewish Committee.
She will also take part in a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Afghanistan and a working lunch on Afghanistan organized by Denmark and the International Peace Institute.
Editor: Roberta Vaino