Kosovo dominates Swiss-British defense talks

Swiss Defense Minister Adolf Ogi (l) and his visiting British counterpart met Monday for talks dominated by the situation in Kosovo, where Britain maintains a sizeable number of troops and Switzerland provides humanitarian and reconstruction aid.

This content was published on June 28, 1999 - 15:55

Swiss Defense Minister Adolf Ogi (l) and his visiting British counterpart George Robertson met Monday for talks dominated by the situation in Kosovo, where Britain maintains a sizeable number of troops 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.

On Tuesday, Ogi will hold talks with visiting German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping.



Source: APD, sda-ats


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