Israel warms to offer of peace summit in Switzerland

Israel's foreign minister, David Levy, has welcomed Switzerland's offer to host a trilateral summit to take forward the Middle East peace process. After talks with his Swiss counterpart, Joseph Deiss, he said Switzerland was well suited to such a role.

This content was published on March 11, 2000 - 07:37

Israel's foreign minister, David Levy, has welcomed Switzerland's offer to host a trilateral summit to take forward the Middle East peace process. After talks with his Swiss counterpart, Joseph Deiss, he said Switzerland was well suited to such a role.

Relations between Switzerland and Israel seem to be on the mend, following a meeting in Berne between the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, and his Israeli counterpart, David Levy.

Speaking after their meeting in Berne, it was clear that both sides had made efforts to resolve their differences. The relationship between the two countries has been strained for a number of years,largely over issues relating to the holocaust.

During the meeting, Deiss reiterated Switzerland's offer to host a three-way peace summit between Israel, Syria and the United States. He made a similar offer during a trip to the region earlier this month, when the proposal received a polite, but non-committal response in public.

After the meeting, Levy told reporters that the proposed meeting "...is possible as far as Israel is concerned".

He added: "There is no place more suited to such a meeting than Switzerland. After all, this country is traditionally well-versed and accustomed to encouraging peace throughout the world."

Levy dismissed Deiss' recent widely-reported comments - describing Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights as "illegal" - as a minor diplomatic matter, which Switzerland could resolve with the Israeli ambassador. Before the trip, Israel had said he would ask for clarification while in Switzerland.

Levy is returning a visit made by the former Swiss foreign minister, Flavio Cotti, in May 1998. The Israeli prime minister at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu, had been due to come to Switzerland in November, but cancelled the trip at the last minute, citing urgent internal matters.

Political analysts attributed the cancellation to the fact that the Swiss government had indicated it would express irritation at the Israeli parliament's decision to honour controversial figures who had led attacks on Switzerland over its role during World War Two.

Relations had also been soured earlier that year by by the Israeli secret service's failed attempt to spy on a suspected Islamic militant living in Switzerland. Several Mossad agents were arrested and one of them, who was released on bail, is due to go on trial in Switzerland this year.

Although Levy's visit to Switzerland will be short, he is also due to be received by the president, Adolf Ogi, and to meet representatives of Switzerland's Jewish community.

swissinfo with agencies

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