Clinton supports Swiss role in Kosovo reconstruction

President Bill Clinton told his Swiss counterpart Ruth Dreifuss Wednesday that Washington fully supported Switzerland’s contribution to international reconstruction efforts for war-ravaged Kosovo.

This content was published on June 16, 1999 - 14:23

President Bill Clinton told his Swiss counterpart Ruth Dreifuss Wednesday that Washington fully supported Switzerland’s contribution to international reconstruction efforts for war-ravaged Kosovo.

Dreifuss, addressing a news conference after a brief meeting with Clinton in Geneva, said the U.S. president mentioned Swiss support in such areas as demining operations, humanitarian aid and, at a later stage, the reconstruction of a civilian administration in the Serb province.

Dreifuss said she assured Clinton of Switzerland’s commitment to “this immense effort of (Balkan) reconstruction.”

The Swiss government has already publicly pledged to continue its aid efforts for Kosovo, for instance in helping to rebuild a civilian administration in Kosovo.

Switzerland – in cooperation with Russia, Greece and Austria – is currently providing emergency aid for victims of the latest conflict in Yugoslavia, as part of an aid programme named “Focus.”

With regard to Balkan reconstruction, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently made clear that European nations would have to bear the largest share of the financial burden of rebuilding Kosovo because the United States had absorbed the heaviest cost of the 78-day NATO bombing campaign against Serb targets in Yugoslavia

Dreifuss and Clinton also discussed the Kosovo refugee situation during their talks in Geneva, where Clinton addressed the International Labour Organization and called for an end to the most degrading forms of child labour.

Washington and Berne agreed that Kosovo refugees should return as soon as possible, Dreifuss said. She added both countries would like to see the displaced within Kosovo return to their homes first. Then, in a second stage, the hundreds of thousands of refugees currently in camps in Albania and Macedonia should follow. And finally those who had been transported to third countries should be flown back home.

Dreifuss described Switzerland’s relations with the United States as “better than ever.” She said her talks also focussed on setting up a new bilateral committee to boost economic cooperation.

The talks in Geneva clearly signalled a further improvement in transatlantic relations, which had been rather rocky in the wake of the scandal over Nazi-era dormant bank accounts.

On Thursday, Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss and the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Madeleine Kunin were expected to sign an accord on resuming a fulbright student exchange scholarship programme.

The United States suspended the programme in 1996 because of the dormant bank account controversy.

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