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Palestinians join Geneva Conventions: Switzerland

GENEVA--The Palestinian Authority has signed up formally to the Geneva Conventions, which set down the rules of warfare and humanitarian operations in conflict zones, the treaties' guardian Switzerland confirmed Friday.

Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Pierre-Alain Eltschinger told AFP that the Palestinian Authority had declared itself party to the conventions on April 2.

This was registered formally by Switzerland on Thursday, he added.

The step is part of a new diplomatic drive by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, coming as peace talks with Israel are close to collapse.

Abbas said he had received a letter from the Swiss president confirming the registration, and praised it as β€œan historic day for the Palestinian people,” a senior Palestinian official said.

The Palestinians had pledged to freeze all moves to seek membership in U.N. organizations and international conventions β€” a stepping stone to recognition of their hoped-for state β€” during the talks in return for Israel's release of veteran Arab prisoners.

Israel has meanwhile made a new bid to expand settlements in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

The original Geneva Conventions were crafted in the 19th century under the auspices of the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross, and recast after World War II.

Over the subsequent decades, optional protocols were added to take into account the developing realities of war and its impact on civilians.

The Palestinians have also submitted requests to the United Nations to join 13 other international conventions and treaties, and the world body said Thursday that the move was legal.

The treaties include the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, the convention on the rights of the child, the convention against torture and an anti-corruption accord.

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