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Secret diplomacy Former Swiss diplomat active in talks with North Korea

Franz von Däniken and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey in 2004

Von Däniken (right) was state secretary between 1999 and 2005 under Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey (archive picture) 

(Keystone)

A former senior Swiss diplomat, Franz von Däniken, is cautiously optimistic about proposed talks between the United States and North Korea.

Von Däniken said there had been a major political development in the last weeks, but he recommended keeping expectations limited

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump accepted an invitation to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but details of the meeting are still not yet clear.

“North Korea and the situation on the Korean peninsula remain a big challenge,” von Däniken is quoted in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper as saying.

He said Switzerland was well placed to act as facilitator given its long-running international observer mission at the demarcation line in Panmunjomexternal link since the early 1950s.

“We can make ourselves useful if needed. Be it as hosts or in multilateral cooperation,” he added.

Secret mission

Von Däniken, a representative of the independent Zurich-based Drosos Foundationexternal link, was in Pyongyang twice together with other former western diplomats in 2014 and 2015.

He said they held talks on a broad range of issues with Kang Sok Ju, a foreign policy chief negotiator and confidant of the North Korean leader at the time, Kim Jong-il.

The visits were aimed at establishing a regular dialogue with the North Korean regime but they were kept out of the news headlines. However, the Swiss foreign ministry confirmed it was informed about the confidence-building diplomatic drive.

Von Däniken was a state secretary in the Swiss foreign ministry between 1999 and 2005.

The current state secretary, Pascale Baeriswyl, was in South Korea earlier this month where she held talks with representatives from South Korea and China on the situation on the Korean peninsula.

swissinfo.ch/urs

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