JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered Israel's ambassador to Switzerland, Ilan Elgar, to return to Jerusalem on Monday for meetings.
Lieberman's call was in protest of Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz's warm welcome to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the evening before the U.N.-sponsored Durban II racism conference in Geneva.
The two leaders met for dinner Sunday evening at a Geneva hotel to discuss diplomatic issues on "questions related to collaboration in the energy and economic sectors," a statement issued by the Swiss government read.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said recalling the ambassador to Switzerland is in response to the invitation to "a racist and Holocaust denier who has spoken more than once about the need to wipe Israel off the map.
"A meeting by the president of a democratic country with a known Holocaust denier, who also calls for the destruction of Israel, is inconsistent with the values that Switzerland represents and that should be upheld," a Foreign Ministry statement read.
"Israel cannot ignore the fact that the conference being attended by the known Holocaust denier is taking place on the very same day that the Jewish people commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day," it read.
The Swiss president defended his meeting with Ahmadinejad in a radio interview on Monday.
"Switzerland is neutral and not part of any alliance," Merz said, noting that his country had traditionally played the role of a mediator.
At Monday's Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said while Israelis honor the memory of those who died at the hand of the Nazi regime, a U.N.-sponsored conference features a Holocaust denier as its key speaker.
"While we remember the six million [Jews exterminated by the Nazis], a conference will be held in Switzerland, allegedly against racism. Its guest of honor is a Holocaust denier who does not conceal his plan to wipe Israel off the face of the earth," Netanyahu said.
"I congratulate those countries that chose to boycott the conference. Contrary to those dark days, today we have a strong Jewish state," he said, adding that it was unfortunate that "not everyone has learned the lesson of the Holocaust."
Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post