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Swiss diplomat meets Palestinian leader in West Bank

The Swiss proposals aim to facilitate dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians on humanitarian issues

(Keystone Archive)

A Swiss diplomat has held talks with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, on the same day that a suicide bomb attack left 19 people dead in Jerusalem.

The visit to the Middle East by the head of the Swiss foreign ministry's political affairs division, Blaise Godet, comes amid international condemnation of Tuesday's suicide attack in southern Jerusalem, which also injured at least 50 people.

During their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Arafat and Godet discussed issues relating to security and terrorism as well as a Swiss proposal to ensure the protection of Palestinian and Israeli civilians caught up in the ongoing conflict in the region.

Respect of human rights

"The main issue up for discussion is the promotion of international humanitarian law in the peace process," said Daniela Stoffel, a spokeswoman for the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

"Godet will also be making it very clear how strongly Switzerland is condemning [Tuesday's] suicide attack," she told swissinfo.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, criticised the attack in the "strongest terms", which he said violated international human rights legislation.

Switzerland is the depository state for the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians.

Humanitarian plan

The Swiss proposals focus particularly on how to guarantee the protection of civilians, but also address issues such as the improvement of access for emergency services and the destruction of private property.

The Swiss government envisages the establishment of a mechanism for monitoring the respect of human rights and a means of liaising between both sides.

"The plan is not yet very concrete - it's meant to be an idea, a suggested starting point for what would promote peace in the region," Stoffel said.

On Monday, Godet, the former Swiss ambassador to Cairo, also held talks with the head of Egypt's diplomatic service, Ahmed Maher.

He is due to travel on Thursday to Israel to meet representatives of the Israeli government on the last stage of his visit to the Middle East before returning to Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

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