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German Defence Minister visits Switzerland

A day after holding talks with his British counterpart George Robertson, Swiss Defence Minister Adolf Ogi (left) is meeting his German opposite number Rudolf Scharping (right). The discussions were expected to focus on the situation in Kosovo.

This content was published on June 29, 1999 - 09:43

A day after holding talks with his British counterpart George Robertson, Swiss Defence Minister Adolf Ogi (left) is meeting his German opposite number Rudolf Scharping (right). The discussions were expected to focus on the situation in Kosovo.

Later in the day, Scharping will meet Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss and Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss.

Ogi's talks with Robertson on Monday were also dominated by the situation in the Serbian province and the two countries' involvement there. Britain maintains a sizeable number of troops in Kosovo and Switzerland provides humanitarian and reconstruction aid.

A Swiss government spokesman said after the talks - held just outside the capital Berne - that Ogi and Robertson also discussed the possibility of joint military training and European security matters.

The Swiss government announced last week that 160 Swiss troops would be deployed in the Balkans to serve with the Austrian contingent of the multi-national KFOR forces in Kosovo. In line with Swiss neutrality, the troops will be unarmed and will mostly provide logistics support.

Some conservative and right-of-centre parties in Switzerland have strongly criticised the Swiss government for the deployment of the Swiss troops abroad, saying the move is a clear violation of the country's neutrality.

The same critics argued that it would be better for Switzerland to continue humanitarian aid in Kosovo, for instance under the auspices of the Red Cross.

Last Friday, Ogi again rejected the criticism and said it was important for Switzerland to show an active commitment to peace.

He said that Switzerland would continue its humanitarian support and reconstruction aid in Kosovo - including the Swiss helicopters used by the U.N. refugee agency in the Balkans.

But he added that military support was essential for the Serbian province since the ethnic Albanian population needed the protection in order to be able to rebuild their lives.

The talks between Ogi and Robertson also included Switzerland's revised national security policy, which is moving away from self-reliance toward increased cooperation with other countries and international organisations.


Source: APD, sda-ats

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