Washington – United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Ranking Commissioner Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) have urged Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to join them in Berlin at an historic international conference aimed at combating anti-Semitism. The move comes just three weeks after Powell announced that Smith and Cardin had been appointed to serve as members of the official United States delegation to the Berlin Conference.
The Berlin Conference will be held April 28-29 under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international regional security organization. The conference will focus on anti-Semitism in the 55-nation OSCE region, specifically addressing the roles of governments, civil society, education and the media in combating prejudice and in promoting tolerance.
“As members of the official U.S. delegation to the Berlin Conference, we respectfully ask that you join us for the meeting,” Smith and Cardin wrote in their April 16 letter to Powell. “Your presence in Berlin would underscore the commitment of the United States to fight anti-Semitism, while also encouraging other participating States to send delegations of the highest level. Your participation will complement the leadership of Mayor Ed Koch, whose expertise and energy make him an excellent head of delegation.”
Chairman Smith and Commissioner Cardin also raised their concerns about the stance taken by some OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation trying to block a reference to the State of Israel, also a Mediterranean Partner, in the conference declaration under discussion in Vienna.
“We also raise our concern about reported efforts by the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation (Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan) to block a reference to the State of Israel in the conference declaration, which is currently under discussion in Vienna,” Smith and Cardin wrote. “The Egyptian Embassy in Vienna apparently led the move, and the Mediterranean Partners are threatening to diminish or withdraw their participation in OSCE if such a statement is included. Any action that even hints at giving these States a role in drafting an OSCE document, let alone a veto, would be completely unacceptable given their Partner status.”
“Mr. Secretary, again we greatly value your personal commitment to denounce and combat anti-Semitism and intolerance, wherever it may occur,” the letter concludes. “Your personal participation in the Berlin Conference would underscore U.S. leadership in this effort, highlight U.S.-German cooperation in combating anti-Semitism, and enhance the visibility of this historic meeting.”
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch will chair the U.S. Delegation. Chairman Smith will again serve as Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Delegation, as he was to the first OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism, held last summer in Vienna and led by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Helsinki Commission Member Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) will also attend the conference in his capacity as a Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
The U.S. and German delegations to the OSCE PA began addressing the unprecedented rise of anti-Semitic violence in the OSCE region at the Annual Session in 2002. Both delegations together have organized forums – in Berlin, Washington and Vienna – on anti-Semitism. The OSCE PA also unanimously approved in 2002 and 2003 resolutions, advanced by Chairman Smith, condemning anti-Semitism.