Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss was paying his first visit to Kosovo on Monday to assess Swiss aid and reconstruction projects in the region, and to hold high-level talks with a special United Nations representative for the Serbian province.
Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss was paying his first visit to Kosovo on Monday to assess Swiss aid and reconstruction projects in the region, and to hold high-level talks with a special United Nations representative in the Serbian province.
The main purpose of the one-day visit was to assess progress of the Swiss reconstruction efforts in war-torn Kosovo, which is still reeling from ethnically motivated acts of violence involving ethnic Albanians and Serbs.
Apart from its own humanitarian efforts in the region, Switzerland has offered its aid services to the European Union, which is working on a stability pact aimed at securing long-term peace and prosperity in the Balkans.
In the course of the day, Deiss was to discuss international aid efforts with Bernard Kouchner, the head of the U.N. Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. Deiss was also to hold talks with ethnic Albanian and Serbian leaders in Kosovo.
The Swiss foreign minister's visit comes as more and more Kosovar refugees are leaving Switzerland to return home.
A second repatriation flight carrying 91 Kosovar returnees left Zurich for Skopje on Friday. As in the case of the first such flight a few days earlier, the ethnic Albanians were flown to the Macedonian capital from where they travelled to neighbouring Kosovo by bus.
The airport of Kosovo’s capital Pristina is still not available for direct repatriation flights.
The returnees qualify for the Swiss government’s resettlement support package, which includes SFr2,000 ($1,333) for each adult and another SFr1,000 ($666) for each child.
The money was handed over in cash after their arrival and backed up by a provision of basic building materials so that the former refugees can repair their houses or build shelters.
The Swiss Refugee Office says it expects about 3,000 ethnic Albanians to return voluntarily by the end of the year. About 17 repatriation flights are scheduled to go ahead by the end of August.
The refugee issue will also top the agenda of Swiss Justice Minister Ruth Metzler, who will visit Italy on Tuesday.
The main focus of the talks in Rome will be on the repatriation of Kosovar refugees from Switzerland through Italy to Kosovo.
From staff and wire reports.
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