Swiss foreign minister notes progress in Kosovo reconstruction

Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss(l) has expressed optimism about reconstruction efforts in Kosovo, saying that, despite incidents of violence, the situation is improving day by day.

This content was published on July 26, 1999 - 17:53

Swiss Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss has expressed optimism about reconstruction efforts in Kosovo, saying that, despite incidents of violence, the situation is improving day by day.

Deiss made the comment after he was briefed about the situation in Kosovo by British Lt. Gen. Mike Jackson, the commander of the NATO-led international KFOR troops in Kosovo, and Bernard Kouchner (r), the head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo on Monday.

Deiss said he was informed by Jackson that the safety of the Serb minority population in Kosovo was clearly the biggest problem at the moment, but that the security situation had significantly improved since the arrival of the KFOR troops.

Fourteen Serb farmers were gunned down at close range on Friday as they harvested grain in a field near the village of Gracko, south of Kosovo’s capital Pristina.

The killings have cast a shadow over the international community’s efforts to bring peace to Kosovo.

About 160 Swiss troops will serve with the Austrian KFOR contingent in Kosovo later this year and will participate in helping rebuild local infrastructure installations.

Deiss – who paid a one-day visit to Kosovo to get a first-hand view of Swiss aid and reconstruction projects in the Serbian province -- said Switzerland’s aid efforts were clearly welcomed and appreciated by the international community.

Switzerland actively supports the construction of emergency shelters and repairs to housing and water installations. It is also setting up TV and radio broadcasting facilities which the U.N. will use to inform the local population.

Apart from implementing its own aid projects, Switzerland has offered its services to the European Union, which is working on a stability pact aimed at securing long-term peace and prosperity in the Balkans.

Deiss’ visit comes as more and more Kosovar refugees are leaving Switzerland to return home.

The voluntary returnees qualify for the Swiss government’s resettlement support package, which includes SFr2,000 ($1,333) for each adult and another SFr1,000 ($666) for each child.

The Swiss Refugee Office says it expects about 3,000 ethnic Albanians to return voluntarily by the end of the year.

From staff and wire reports.

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