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Deiss attends Moscow conference on Middle East

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, (pictured left) is attending a high-level conference in Moscow, chaired by the United States and Russia, on measures to support the Middle East peace process.

This content was published on January 30, 2000 - 17:34

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, (pictured left) is attending a high-level conference in Moscow, chaired by the United States and Russia, on measures to support the Middle East peace process. Switzerland is playing a support role behind the scenes.

The visit by Deiss to the two-day meeting follows high-level talks over the weekend about the Middle East peace process at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Among the people Deiss met were the Egyptian foreign minister, Amr Moussa, and the Israeli minister, Shimon Peres, for an update on the latest in the peace process.

Deiss is one of 40 representatives from foreign countries attending the multilateral talks.

Switzerland has no role to play in the top-level talks - which are usually bilateral - but for many years, it has been supporting multilateral efforts to bring peace to the region.

Switzerland's has had a mandate since 1995 to pursue the "human dimension" among the committees set up to address issues raised by the peace process.

"Switzerland has been invited, with 10 other countries, to take charge of the human dimension in the five working groups which are active on different issues, like refugees or security or water", Deiss said.

"We are, of course, prepared and interested to re-start what we did until 1997 -on that level being the shepherd of the human dimension of the multilateral project."

In practical terms, Switzerland's role in pursuing the "human dimension" means fostering regional cooperation, above all between Israelis and Palestinians. Switzerland has, among other things, carried out training projects, largely paid for by the European Union, such as giving computer training courses to Palestinians freed by Israel.

Deiss's visit to Moscow is meant to give new impetus to the multilateral process which - because it is totally dependent on progress in the bilateral talks - has effectively been stalled since 1997. If the multilateral process can be restarted, there are apparently several Swiss projects ready to be revived.

By Peter Haller

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