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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Talks on new emblem for Red Cross
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

Red Cross volunteers
The cross is predominantly used in Christian countries
The Swiss government is hosting two days of talks in Geneva in an effort to agree on a new emblem for the International Red Cross.

At the moment, the only two emblems recognised under the Geneva Conventions are the red cross and the red crescent.

Some countries are reluctant to use either symbol and want a new emblem which has no religious connotations.

There is a proposal for a neutral emblem: a red diamond on a white background, called the Red Crystal.

If the talks in Geneva go well, the Red Crystal is likely to be adopted at a diplomatic conference later this year.

Most countries, including Israel and Arab states, appear to be in agreement after years of negotiations.

Not religious

The IRC's traditional symbol, the red cross, has been a target of attack in the past in areas controlled by Islamic militants.

But the red cross was never designed to have religious signifance. It is a reversal of the Swiss flag and was intended to signify neutrality.

However, in the late 19th century, the Ottoman Empire began using the red crescent to protect its medical staff during war.

The crescent was recognised under the Geneva Conventions in 1929.

But Israel's Magen David Adom Society uses the red star of David. This has never been recognised and so the society is still not a full member of the Red Cross movement.

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