Deiss attends Assad funeral

Joseph Deiss (right) during his last meeting with Assad in March in Damascus. Keystone

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, is representing Switzerland at the funeral of the Syrian leader, Hafez al-Assad. A foreign ministry statement said Deiss would fly back to Berne shortly after the ceremony.

This content was published on June 13, 2000 - 07:29

Among the other foreign dignitaries attending the funeral in the capital, Damascus, are the heads of state of seven Arab countries, as well as the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Bulgaria.

The only western head of state present at Assad's funeral is the French president, Jacques Chirac. The United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, Japan and Switzerland have all sent their foreign ministers.

For Deiss, the trip to Damascus is his second in the space of three months. In March, he met Assad during a tour of Middle East to try to boost Switzerland's role in the peace process.

Later in the same month, Assad came to Switzerland for talks with President Clinton on reviving peace talks with Israel. It was his first official visit to Geneva since 1996.

The veteran Middle East leader had also met two other US presidents in Geneva: Jimmy Carter in 1977, and George Bush 13 years later.

The Swiss government has expressed sadness at the death of the 69 year-old Syrian president. In a message of condolence, the Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, said Assad's death market "the end of an era".

Assad ruled Syria with an iron fist for 30 years. His 34 year-old son, Bashar, is poised to take over as president.

swissinfo with agencies

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