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Couchepin calls for swift crash deal

The Swiss and Russian presidents meet in Moscow Keystone

The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, has called for a swift settlement for compensation claims over last year’s plane crash in Swiss controlled airspace that left 71 people dead.

This content was published on July 11, 2003 - 18:34

His statement came after a meeting in Moscow with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who echoed Couchepin’s words.

Putin said the good relations between the two countries would not be affected by the crash, which killed 52 Russian children from the republic of Bashkirian.

However Russia did express disappointment that the Swiss air traffic controller who was on duty the night of the crash was still employed by Skyguide, Switzerland’s air traffic control agency, according to swissinfo correspondent, Jean-Didier Revoin.

“But Couchepin reassured Russia that the employee in question was no longer working as an air traffic controller for Skyguide,” Revoin said.

Couchepin said Switzerland wanted to reach an out-of-court settlement with the relatives of the victims but added that he did not want to make lawyers rich.

Patience

The Swiss president asked Russia to be patient while the German authorities completed their investigation into the accident – which happened in July 2002 over Überlingen in Germany.

The two leaders also discussed the issue of human rights with Couchepin expressing concern over the situation in Chechnya.

“The main purpose of the visit was to re-establish relations between Switzerland and Russia which existed in the economic fields,” Revoin said.

“I think it’s a good start to build relations in both economic and political areas in the future.”

Couchepin said after the meeting that the two leaders left with the intention to meet again.

It was the first time a member of the Swiss government had held talks with the Russian president.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Couchepin and Putin have met in Moscow – it’s the first time a member of the Swiss government held talks with the Russian president.

Couchepin assured Putin that the relatives of the 52 Russian victims of an air crash over Swiss airspace will be compensated as soon as possible.

Putin assured Couchepin that the two countries would maintain good relations but did express concern that the Swiss air traffic controller was still employed by Skyguide.

Couchepin said the employee was no longer working as an air traffic controller.

The Swiss president said the two leaders ended talks with the intention to meet again.

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