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Ogi in Bosnia to mark end of Swiss mission

Adolf Ogi decorates a member of the Yellow Berets

(Keystone)

The Swiss mission is pulling out of Bosnia-Herzegovina after four years. Their departure is being marked by a visit from the Swiss defence minister, Adolf Ogi.

Ogi on Friday began a visit to Switzerland's unarmed "yellow berets" in the capital, Sarajevo, where they have been headquartered since their mission began in 1996 under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The unarmed voluntary unit has been the main provider of logistical support for the OSCE over the past four and a half years, since the end of the Bosnian civil war.

During that time they have provided expertise and assistance in the fields of medical supply and care, transport, mail services and vehicle maintenance.

The 500-strong Swiss contingent also helped the OSCE - whose mission is to promote democracy, human rights and organise elections - in the Bosnian ballot in November.

The Swiss president is accompanied on his trip to Bosnia by the army chief of staff, Hans-Ulrich Scherrer, and members of the parliamentary security committees, to underline that Switzerland views the mission as a success.

In a statement this week, the OSCE secretary general, Jan Kubis, thanked Switzerland for the successful work of its troops in Bosnia. The Swiss Headquarters Support Unit (SHQSU) will leave on December 31.

The Swiss have been progressively pulling out their forces over the past few months, while the OSCE has been developing a plan to replace them with local workers.

The Swiss defence ministry intends to leave any material that would be too expensive to transport back to Switzerland to relief groups working in Bosnia. Ogi will formally hand over equipment to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in Visegrad.

The president will conclude his trip with a meeting with his three Bosnian counterparts, who represent the main ethnic groups, and a visit to the police academy which Switzerland is funding.

swissinfo with agencies


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