Resort offers peaceful setting for Cyprus talks

A world away from divided Cyprus Keystone

The luxury Bürgenstock resort above Lake Lucerne was chosen as the setting for negotiations on the future of Cyprus which began on Wednesday.

This content was published on March 23, 2004

It is not the first peace conference, and probably will not be the last, to be held in one of Switzerland’s grand hotels.

The United Nations-sponsored talks involving Cypriot, Turkish and Greek leaders are probably the last chance to resolve differences ahead of the island's accession to the European Union on May 1.

As a setting for high-level negotiations, the Bürgenstock complex has much to offer.

The resort is less than 20 minutes by helicopter from Zurich airport and yet is a world apart.

Comprising three five-star hotels perched on a hill high above Lake Lucerne, Bürgenstock boasts a funicular railway, drinking and wastewater plants, power station, chapel and its very own post office.

And if the talks get bogged down, negotiators can let out their frustration by whacking a few balls around the resort golf course or seek inspiration from the stunning views of the lake and snow-capped mountains.

Sudanese signing

The Bürgenstock was last in the public eye two years ago when the Sudanese government and rebel groups chose the location to sign their historic ceasefire agreement.

Less publicised was the decision by the secretive Bilderberg society, made up of members of the world’s political and financial elite, to hold its annual meetings twice on the Bürgenstock – once in the 1960s and again in the 1980s.

Henry Kissinger is thought to be a long-time Bilderberg member, and he is known to have patronised the Bürgenstock.

But the Bürgenstock management prefer to boast about the resort’s celebrity appeal.

Audrey Hepburn got married there, and chose to live in a Bürgenstock villa for several years. Another high profile resident was Sophia Loren.

Serve peace

The choice of luxury Swiss accommodation as a setting for peace negotiations has a long tradition.

In 1925, European powers signed the Pact of Locarno in the southern Swiss city’s grand hotel.

The accord was to have guaranteed peace in Europe, but was denounced by Hitler in 1936.

The Caux Palace situated high on the mountainside above Montreux on Lake Geneva was opened in 1902 as the biggest and most luxurious of all Swiss hotels, but has done more to serve peace over the years than wealthy guests.

The palace as hotel did not survive the lean economic years of the 1930s and was taken over by the Swiss authorities in the 1940s to house allied prisoners of war and Jewish refugees.

Once the war ended, it was turned into a conference centre by the peace organisation, Moral Rearmament.

For more than 50 years now, Moral Rearmament has welcomed political leaders and high-level delegations that have travelled to Switzerland in search of peace.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

Key facts

The first of Bürgenstock’s three hotels was built in 1873.
The complex has nearly 200 rooms, and seminar facilities for more than 500 people.
A peculiar landmark is the complex’s outdoor elevator, billed as Europe’s fastest and highest, which takes passengers to the top of the Bürgenstock hill.

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In brief

The United Nations-sponsored peace talks on Cyprus take place in the Bürgenstock resort in central Switzerland from March 24.

Cypriot leaders will be joined by the Turkish and Greek prime ministers, as well as the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan.

Negotiators are trying to resolve differences ahead of the divided island's accession to the European Union on May 1.

If they fail to reach an agreement, only the Greek half of the island will join the EU.

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