Swiss experts may support EU mission in Mali

Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter comments on possible deployment of Swiss soldiers to Mali Keystone

Swiss experts may support the European Union military training mission in Mali, foreign minister Didier Burkhalter told Sunday newspaper Sonntagsblick in an interview.

This content was published on March 31, 2013 - 14:19

Burkhalter said he would like Swiss soldiers to participate in the EU’s mission, headquartered in the capital Bamako in the south of the country. Switzerland has been involved in diplomatic efforts in Mali since 2009 to mediate between the government and minorities in the North.

The Swiss experts would be part of the EUTM Mali, which trains and advises the military. The mission would not be involved in combat operations between the army and rebels in the north of the country. Burkhalter told the newspaper that he considers the EU mission “important” and “right” for Mali.

The EU asked Switzerland at the end of January whether the country would participate in its mission. Burkhalter said that the foreign department and the defence department are jointly working on a possible deployment of Swiss soldiers. The two departments would together file a motion with the cabinet should they agree on an appropriate course of action.

The deployment would be compatible with Switzerland’s neutrality because a possible mission would be based on a resolution by the United Nations and an invitation by the Mali government, Burkhalter explained. The mission would be in line with Switzerland’s constitutional obligation of promoting peace, he said.

Assuring stability

“Switzerland must undertake everything conceivable to ensure that the Geneva Convention – the core of the international humanitarian law – is respected around the world,” Burkhalter told the newspaper. Switzerland “has to ensure stability and security in Europe and adjacent troubled regions.”

Burkhalter said Swiss experts would teach Mali soldiers how to comply with international humanitarian law and human rights. They would most likely be unarmed soldiers who would not even wear uniforms. The Swiss experts would not be responsible for the training of military skills, Burkhalter told Sonntagsblick.

The EU Foreign Affairs Concil in February launched the Mali training mission, which aims to make sure that local security forces are able to counter attacks of terrorist groups within Mali and restore the territorial integrity of the country. The EU expects to deploy as many as 200 military instructors with the entire staff of the mission numbering up to 500.

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