The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has returned to Switzerland after a nine-day tour of the Middle East.This content was published on March 4, 2000 - 19:22
The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has returned to Switzerland after a nine-day tour of the Middle East. He was accompanied by business and parliamentary leaders, who gave a positive assessment of the trip, notwithstanding the controversy over Deiss' remarks about Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights.
The Israeli ambassador to Berne, Yitzhak Mayer, called for a clarification after Deiss said Israel's 33-year occupation of the Heights was illegal. Mayer said the Israeli foreign minister, David Levy, would push for an explanation when he visits Switzerland on March 13.
Deiss has defended his statements. He said he had merely repeated Switzerland's long-held view on the Golan Heights, and that it was natural for him to discuss the issue since he was visiting Syria at the time.
He also raised the possibility of Switzerland hosting peace negotiations involving Israel, Syria and the United States, provided all sides want such a meeting. He made it clear, however, that no formal invitation had as yet been extended.
During his nine-day tour, Deiss held talks with Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese leaders on bilateral issues as well as the Middle East peace process. He also paid a private visit to the Egyptian city of Luxor, where he laid a wreath in memory of the 36 Swiss tourists killed in a terrorist attack in 1997.
From staff and wire reports
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