US expected to retreat from main UN rights forum: activists, diplomats

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GENEVA: Talks with the United States over how to reform the main UN rights body have failed to meet Washington’s demands, activists and diplomats say, suggesting that the Trump administration will quit the Geneva forum whose session opens on Monday.

A US source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the withdrawal appeared to be “imminent” but had no details.

Diplomatic sources said it was not a question of if but of when the United States retreats from the Human Rights Council, which is holding a three-week session through July 6.

A separate US official in Geneva had no information about a looming pull-out during the upcoming talks, saying: “We are still moving ahead with our engagement for the coming session.”

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, publicly told the Council a year ago that Washington might leave the body unless a “chronic anti-Israel bias” was removed.

The forum, set up in 2006, has a permanent standing agenda item on suspected violations committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, which Washington wants removed.

Washington says the Council is stacked with opponents of Israel and boycotted it for three years under President George W. Bush before rejoining under Barack Obama in 2009.

The 47-member forum last month voted to set up a probe into killings in Gaza and accused Israel of excessive use of force. The United States and Australia cast the only “no” votes. Israel’s ambassador in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter, castigated the Council for “spreading lies against Israel”.