Ukraine tops Swiss president’s agenda in Washington

Burkhalter testifed before the US Helsinki Commission on Tuesday Keystone

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter has met American Vice-President Joe Biden to discuss the role of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Ukraine’s political transition, a few days after that country’s leader was ousted.

This content was published on February 26, 2014 - 09:13 and agencies

Burkhalter, who is the chairman of the OSCE this year, and Biden "consulted on the current situation in Ukraine, including what support the United States and the OSCE could offer to help return the country to peace and stability, to ensure justice and accountability, and to strengthen democratic institutions as Ukrainians chart their future course", according to a White House statement.

Speaking after the meeting on Tuesday, Burkhalter said that Biden had welcomed the OSCE’s proposals to resolve the Ukrainian crisis peacefully. The Swiss president had outlined these proposals on Monday in New York to the United Nations Security Council, notably the creation of an “International Contact Group” on Ukraine – the main task of which would be to support the country during its transition period.

Biden has taken the lead for the White House during the events in Ukraine, notably speaking by telephone on nine different occasions with the ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych in recent weeks, seeking to quell political violence.

While in Washington, Burkhalter also appeared before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the so-called Helsinki Commission, which includes members of the US Congress as well as representatives from the departments of state, defence and commerce.

The Swiss president placed special emphasis on the situation in Ukraine. When the commission’s co-chair Chris Smith asked how the US could help the OSCE in its efforts to help the Ukraine, Burkhalter replied that “clear support of the OSCE would be very important  to emphasise the goal of a peaceful solution”.

He added that the international community should now seek a solution that answers the needs of the Ukrainian population.

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