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Swiss confirm commitment to Iraq

The Swiss will have a hand in drafting the new Iraqi constitution

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland has used an international donor conference to reaffirm its commitment to provide humanitarian and political assistance to Iraq.

Bern added that it would be sending a federalism expert to Baghdad to help officials who are drawing up a new constitution for the country.

The coordination office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in the Jordanian capital Amman is representing Switzerland at the two-day event.

SDC spokesman Jean-Philippe Jutzi said that the goal of the conference was to take stock of the reconstruction work carried out so far and to improve coordination among donors.

He added that Bern had received a request from Baghdad for assistance from a Swiss constitutional expert in the drafting of a new constitution.

The expert’s date of departure for the Middle East has not yet been fixed but the new document will be subject to a vote in mid-August.

Donor meeting

Jutzi said that Switzerland intended to continue with its health and hygiene programmes in Iraq, which have already been in place for two years. Bern also wished to strengthen ties with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The SDC spokesman revealed that the Swiss would offer training to young diplomats and civil servants sometime later this year, notably in international negotiation, human rights and democratic control of the armed forces.

More than 60 countries and NGOs are meeting under the framework of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) by the Dead Sea in Jordan.

IRFFI – which was set up by the United Nations and World Bank - aims to help donors channel their resources and coordinate their support for reconstruction and development activities in Iraq based on a needs assessment carried out by the UN and the Iraqi authorities.

More than $1 billion (SFr1.29 billion) has so far been pledged to the fund by 25 donors.

Switzerland has already agreed to waive 80 per cent of debts owed to it by Iraq within the international framework of the Paris Club. This amounts to SFr240 million.

Meanwhile, the security situation in Iraq, particularly in the capital, took a turn for the worse on the day prior to the opening of the IRFFI meeting. A wave of suicide attacks in Baghdad left at least 22 people dead.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

More than 60 countries and non-governmental organisations are meeting under the aegis of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq by the Dead Sea in Jordan.
The two-day meeting ends on July 19.
The aim is to take stock of work carried out so far to reconstruct Iraq and to improve coordination among donors.

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