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Calmy-Rey begins visit to Israel

Calmy-Rey laid a wreath at the Holocaust memorial Keystone

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is in Israel on the second part of her trip to the Middle East, having finished her visit to the West Bank.

This content was published on February 7, 2005 - 21:24

Calmy-Rey started her first trip to Israel by visiting the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. She later met Israeli ministers.

The Swiss foreign minister left a wreath of flowers at the Yad Vashem memorial on behalf of Switzerland and also inscribed her name in the guest book, during the trip on Sunday.

“I have come to honour the memory of the six million Jews who were killed [in the Holocaust], victims of an insanity, of the unspeakable,” said Calmy-Rey.

“In the name of the government and people of Switzerland, I express my pain and hope that it will never happen again,” she added.

Calmy-Rey then went on to meetings with the Israeli President, Moshe Katsav, Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Geneva Initiative

Before the meetings, Calmy-Rey told Swiss radio that she would be discussing the Geneva Initiative, a Swiss-backed peace plan for the Middle East.

“I talk about Switzerland’s activity in the region with all my meeting partners. I am very proud of the Geneva Initiative,” she said.

She also recalled that the United Nations had mandated Switzerland to carry out consultations and report back on whether international humanitarian law was being respected in the region.”

“We have up until now informally consulted a certain number of countries and Israel was among them,” added Calmy-Rey.

“The next step will now be official consultations, a report to the UN General Assembly and an eventual conference of the parties involved.”

Momentum

For its part, the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement that Calmy-Rey was interested in getting to know Israel and learning about developments in the peace process.

It said the visit would give relations between the countries “renewed momentum” after a relationship that has “ebbed and flowed” over the past few years.

But it also called on the Swiss to improve relations between the two countries, singling out regional parliaments and the media for criticism.

This was a reference to a resolution passed by Geneva cantonal parliament that condemned the controversial Israeli security barrier in the West Bank.

At a press conference on Sunday, Calmy-Rey replied that the Swiss government “had never tried to darken the image of Israel in the media; we are too interested by peace and dialogue”.

Palestinian counterpart

The Swiss foreign minister wrapped up her visit to the occupied territories with a meeting with her Palestinian counterpart Nabil Shaath on Saturday.

Calmy-Rey said that Shaath had taken the opportunity to remind Switzerland of its international humanitarian-law responsibilities in the region.

In a resolution adopted last July, the UN called on Israel to dismantle its controversial security barrier in the West Bank.

The text also called on Switzerland to investigate the application of international humanitarian law in the region.

Calmy-Rey said that she had told Shaath that informal discussions on the subject were being carried out.

The minister later visited a Swiss-funded psychiatric hospital in northern Gaza and the Jabaliya refugee camp, where she deplored the “catastrophic humanitarian conditions” in the occupied territories.

Calmy-Rey also announced that Swiss aid to the Palestinians would total SFr30 million ($25 million) a year.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

After three days in the occupied territories, Calmy-Rey started her visit to Israel on Sunday.
It is her first visit to the country. The last trip by a Swiss foreign minister dates back to 2001.
The volume of trade between Israel and Switzerland stands at SFr2.2 billion.

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