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Calmy-Rey calls for inter-religious dialogue

The UN General Assembly meets for the 61st time

(Keystone)

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has called for Switzerland to actively use its "bridge-building" strengths within the United Nations.

Calmy-Rey also spoke out in favour of a strengthening of dialogue between Christians and Muslims at the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday. And she proposed reforms to the Security Council.

Emphasising the need for Switzerland to play a more active role within the UN, Calmy-Rey believes the Swiss approach may help to resolve problems and conflicts around the world. "We must use our experiences with dialogue and searching for consent to also build bridges internationally," she said.

Speaking about a breakdown of trust between the east and the west, Calmy-Rey told journalists she thought she would never see the day when there would be a "clash of civilisations". But she has started to believe that the time might come.

She said the world would have to pay "great attention" in order to avoid such a scenario.

Reforms

Calmy-Rey also backed moves to reform the UN Security Council, calling for it to be expanded to include more countries and for the body to become more transparent in its dealings.

She defended her earlier comments that Switzerland should strive one day to become a Council member, even though "there are some [in Switzerland] who believe the best foreign policy is not to have any foreign policy at all".

The foreign minister said she was pleased that this objective – even though it is far away – had aroused a debate in Switzerland on the meaning of neutrality.

"It allows us to defend our position," she said.

In discussions with other foreign ministers on the issue of combating terrorism and the detention of suspected terrorists, Calmy-Rey appealed for the Geneva Conventions to be upheld at all times.

Neutrality

In 1515, the Swiss forces were defeated by the French at the Battle of Marginano in Italy. This marked the end of the military policy of the old ...

Swiss values

Her comments came two days after Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger took part in the opening of the 61st General Assembly.

He highlighted Switzerland's basic values of democracy, rule of law and social equality, and how the UN could apply them when tackling conflicts.

"Nation states, and also the UN, must protect people who are being victimised. They must also create and implement a legal system and discover the root causes of conflicts in order to stop the spiral of violence," he said.

swissinfo, Rita Emch in New York with agencies

International Humanitarian Law

International humanitarian law (IHL) is a set of rules that seek to limit the effects of armed conflict. Its principal legal documents are the ...

Key facts

The United Nations General Assembly convenes annually to allow all member states to debate and vote on important issues.
The Security Council is the arm of the UN charged with maintaining peace and security among nations.
It has five permanent members (US, China, Russia, Britain and France) along with 10 other members elected by the General Assembly to sit for two year terms.

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In brief

Calmy-Rey painted a positive picture of Swiss work in the UN in the past year.

A high point was the creation of the creation of the UN Human Rights Council, which replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission earlier this year, as a great success.

She warned however that the body should not be allowed to make the same mistakes as the commission, and therefore all countries had to be judged on equal terms.

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Also on the agenda

Calmy-Rey also met her Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki. She said she hoped for a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, and stressed that Switzerland continued to support the European Union's negotiation efforts.

The Swiss foreign minister discussed the lack of progress over discussions on the political status of Kosovo with Matti Athisaari, the UN special envoy to Kosovo.

And she met Lebanese foreign minister Fawzi Salloukh. Before that she had held talks with representatives of the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee.

She also participated in a meeting of NATO and European Union states.

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The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting