Deiss recommends targeted response to terrorism

The Swiss Foreign Minister, Joseph Deiss, was in Brussels on Saturday Keystone Archive

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has pushed for a targeted and concrete response to the threat of terrorism at a European conference on the subject in Brussels.

This content was published on October 20, 2001 - 20:37

Addressing representatives from 40 countries, Deiss called for "unity" and "determination" in the fight against global terrorism saying that the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington had made international collaboration all the more important.

He said efforts had to be concentrated on particular goals and that terrorist groups had to be cut off from the money which funds them. According to Deiss this money comes from international crimes such as the illegal arms trade, drug smuggling, money laundering and human trafficking.

Banking secrecy

He was quick to point out, however, that Switzerland's banking secrecy laws were not and "have never been" a way for terrorists to bank roll their activities.
"There is no banking secrecy when it comes to terrorism, " Deiss said.

He explained that by law, Swiss banks have to alert the authorities about any transactions suspected of being linked to terrorism or organised crime. The accounts in question are then immediately blocked.

He told the European conference that as it stands current anti-terrorism measures are not enough to win what the United States has called the "war on terrorism."

At a press conference after the meeting, Deiss underlined Bern's readiness to take a lead in the financial battle against terrorism. He said that Switzerland was ready to combat financial crime.

Deiss added that the September 11 attacks had changed the Swiss mentality vis-à-vis the importance of positive international relations, and had highlighted some black holes,such as Switzerland not being a member of the United Nations.

Declaration of solidarity

The day-long meeting in Brussels ended with a declaration of solidarity for the United States and it's action in Afghanistan, with the 40 countries pledging their support for the fight against terrorism. There was however one caveat: that any action taken should fall within the legitimate framework of defence as set out by the United Nations.

They also agreed to step up their contributions to the humanitarian aid effort in Afghanistan. For its part, Switzerland has already pledged SFr17 million worth of assistance.

The countries are also considering the possibility of a more transparent exchange of information on a number of subjects including new terrorist threats such as biological, chemical and nuclear attacks.
The meeting, which followed Friday's EU summit in Ghent, brought together the 15 EU member states, along with thirteen countries pushing for EU membership, the four members of the European Association for free trade to which Switzerland belongs and for the first time Russia, Moldavia and the Ukraine.

swissinfo with agencies

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