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End in sight to Stability Pact row

Bodo Hombach, Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact

(Keystone)

Diplomats representing the Balkans Stability Pact have assured Switzerland that it will soon be granted full membership of the organisation.

At the moment, Switzerland only has observer status in the Pact which oversees the use of development aid in south east Europe.

During informal talks in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, the Swiss delegation were told that their full membership would soon be approved by foreign ministers representing the existing member states. Norway, Canada and Japan are also due to acquire full member status.

If no objections are raised by the foreign ministers, the four countries could join the Pact in a matter of weeks.

For the Swiss delegation, led by ambassador Marc-André Salamin, the informal talks mark a major breakthrough. "We have taken a step in the right direction," he said after the meeting. As one of the most active donors of aid to the Balkans, Switzerland has been campaigning for membership ever since the Pact was founded in 1999.

In March the Swiss foreign ministry went as far as to threaten the Pact with a reduction in contributions if Switzerland's membership wasn't approved. Berne has already donated some SFr27 million towards the total Stability Pact fund of around SFr3.8 billion.

The Pact is currently made up of around 30 countries from the European Union, the United States and the Balkans. Switzerland has said it would use its membership to push for increased democracy in the region and an improvement in human rights.

swissinfo with agencies

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