John Kerry in staunch defence of Israel at UN rights gathering

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday launched into a staunch defence of Israel at the annual session of a UN rights body, just as ties between Washington and the Jewish state hit a low point.

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 02, 2015, 18:52 PM IST

Geneva: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday launched into a staunch defence of Israel at the annual session of a UN rights body, just as ties between Washington and the Jewish state hit a low point.

Israel has long had stormy relations with the Human Rights council (HCR), which has repeatedly chastised it for rights violations in the Palestinian territories, leading to accusations of bias.

"The HCR`s obsession with Israel risks undermining the credibility of the entire organisation," Kerry said at the opening of the main annual session of the council -- which aims to protect human rights around the globe.

"We will oppose any group within the UN system (attempting) to regularly and arbitrarily de-legitimise Israel," he said.

Calling the council`s record on Israel "deeply concerning," he said "no country on earth should be free from scrutiny, but neither should any country be (subjected) to bias".

His defence comes at a time when ties between the United States and the Jewish state have cooled over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s attempts to dissuade the US administration from making a deal with Iran on reining in its nuclear programme.

Netanyahu is currently in the United States and will address the US Congress on Tuesday at the invitation of President Barack Obama`s Republican foes, infuriating the White House.

Kerry, meanwhile, is due to hold talks later Monday with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux.

After years of on-off negotiations, experts say global powers appear to be closing in on a deal that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

But Israel is worried that Iran and world powers will clinch a deal that eases sanctions on Tehran -- which is what Iran wants -- without applying sufficiently stringent safeguards.