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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 18:57 GMT
Pact helps Israel join Red Cross
International Red Cross Committee co-operation director Francois Bugnon with the "Red Crystal" emblem
Israel could use the new symbol to operate as an ICRC member
The Israeli and Palestinian emergency services have signed an historic deal, paving the way for Israel's entry into the international Red Cross movement.

The accord comes days before an international conference is due to consider adopting a new "neutral" emblem for the ICRC aid agency.

Delegates are expected to approve a "red crystal" symbol, which would allow Israel to join the movement.

Israel has previously been denied entry

as it does not use an approved symbol.

The ICRC recognises the symbols of the Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency services, but not the red Star of David used by Israel's Magen David Adom.

Century-old dispute

Speaking at a signing ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland's Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said the deal between Israel and the Palestinians should resolve the dispute.

"The agreement will bring to a conclusion a 100-year-old controversy regarding the emblem," he said.

Under the accord, brokered by Switzerland, Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent agreed to mutual recognition.

Arab states had insisted the issue be dealt with before the 192 signatories of the Geneva Conventions meet in Geneva next week to consider the new emblem.

"The agreement [with the Palestinians] stands alongside our hope that we will be admitted as a Red Cross and Red Crescent society," Noam Yiftach, Chairman of Magen David Adom, told journalists.

New symbol

If the new Red Crystal emblem is adopted, as expected, Magen David Adom will be able to use the symbol, with the option of incorporating its Star of David in the centre.

The "crystal" - a hollow red diamond on a white background - is regarded as being free from religious, national or cultural connotations.

Use of the new emblem - minus the Star of David - would enable Magen David Adom to operate in politically sensitive areas outside Israeli territory.

The deal between Israel and the Palestinians also aims to make it easier for the Palestine Red Crescent to operate in areas under Israeli control.

"It's the first time Magen David Adom has recognised the sovereignty of the Palestine Red Crescent on Palestinian land and its right to work with freedom," said Younis al-Khatib, president of the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

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