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Calmy-Rey and Steinmeier try to turn the page

Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and her German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier have said they "want to leave recent irritations behind them".

Meeting in Berlin on Wednesday, the two said they wanted to foster a closer relationship to agree as soon as possible on how to eliminate harmful tax practices.

Steinmeier described Switzerland's decision on March 13 to conform with standards set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as "an important political signal", adding it was now about implementing the political announcements as quickly as possible.

At a news conference Calmy-Rey replied that "if we say something, we do it", repeating her view that Switzerland was not a tax haven and therefore did not deserve to be on any blacklist.

"Partners should deal respectfully with each other. We are nice neighbours. And you don't treat such a nice and peaceful neighbour in such a way. That really hurt us," she said.

A war of words between Switzerland and its big neighbour began almost a fortnight ago when German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück likened the Swiss to Indians running scared at the mere threat of the US cavalry after the government – giving in to strong international pressure – announced it was prepared to exchange information with foreign tax authorities in cases of suspected tax evasion.

The German ambassador to Bern was summoned to the foreign ministry to hear Switzerland's official reaction to what Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey described as Steinbrück's "contemptuous and aggressive" comments.

The Swiss public, press and politicians were also livid. Thomas Müller of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party said Steinbrück reminded him of the "generation of Germans who marched through the streets in leather coats, boots and armbands".

Steinbrück for his part told a German newspaper that he was getting hate mail from Switzerland repeating the Nazi accusation. He described this as "completely unacceptable".

swissinfo with agencies

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