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Upbeat meeting between Deiss and Annan in New York

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, (left) meets the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan in New York Keystone

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, and the United Nation's secretary general, Kofi Annan, have met in New York.

The two men talked about a number of issues, but topping the agenda was the possibility of Switzerland becoming a member of the UN, something which the Swiss electorate will decide upon in a referendum next year.

After the meeting Deiss told swissinfo that “Annan’s position was that Switzerland could subscribe to the UN charter and remain a neutral country.”
Annan demonstrated the possibility with the example of Ireland, which is neutral like Switzerland, but also a UN member.

Deiss was careful not to jump the gun during his talks with Annan saying he “didn’t go into any details” about the possible role Switzerland could play in the UN. “You shouldn’t make too many projects before you’ve won the referendum,” he said.

“Smart Sanctions”

Their talks also covered a number of other areas such as Switzerland’s recent proposal for “Smart Sanctions”, the World Economic Forum moving from Davos to New York in 2002 and Switzerland’s humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

“In the discussion you could see our contributions are very much appreciated,” Deiss told swissinfo. “[Annan] was mentioning the Smart Sanctions issue we presented some weeks ago to the UN Security Council.”

Annan was full of praise for the Swiss initiative, which suggested a new way to use sanctions to pressure a country’s government, so that the population is not made to suffer when economic and political sanctions are imposed.

Annan commended the Swiss authorites for bringing “clarity” to such “a difficult issue”.

As well as the use of sanctions, the two men touched upon international efforts to contain terrorism and the initiatives the Swiss government has taken as part of the global crackdown on terrorist funding.

“We were [also] able to discuss humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan’s people as the winter sets in and their needs become more desperate,” Annan told swissinfo.

Middle East Conference

Correspondents say Deiss also took full advantage of his trip to New York to lay the foundations for the upcoming Middle East conference which Switzerland is hosting in Geneva next month.

The aim of the meeting is to address the issue of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and to better support aid workers in the area.

Deiss managed to gain assurances from representatives from the league of Arab nations that they would support the compromise presented by Switzerland at the December meeting.

Before returning to Switzerland, Deiss will visit downtown Manhattan to pay his respects to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks which reduced the World Trade Center to rubble and killed more than 4,500 people.

by Sally Mules and Mariano Masserini

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR