Swiss government pays tribute to Arafat

A portrait of Yasser Arafat outside the French hospital where he died on Thursday Keystone

The Swiss government has been paying tribute to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died on Thursday aged 75.

This content was published on November 11, 2004 - 12:08

The president, Joseph Deiss, described Arafat as an “open and charismatic” personality.

Speaking during a visit to Mexico, he said Switzerland had always played a part in the search for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.

The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, passed on her condolences to the Palestinian assembly and Arafat’s family on behalf of the Swiss government.

"Yasser Arafat helped create a Palestinian identity and accepted the idea of two states living side by side," she said in Bern on Thursday. "But he was not able to bring peace."

Calmy-Rey will attend Arafat's funeral in Cairo on Friday.

Lasting peace

A statement from the foreign ministry said earlier that Arafat had devoted his entire life to the cause of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination.

“Together with [Israeli leaders] Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, he was awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their joint effort in drafting the Oslo Agreement.

“Sadly, hopes for a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East remain unfulfilled and the spiral of violence is claiming ever more victims among the Palestinian and Israeli societies.”

The foreign ministry said Switzerland would continue to work with the international community to help achieve the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

It said it hoped that “free, democratic and fair” elections could take place in the Palestinian territories as soon as possible to elect a successor to Arafat. Calmy-Rey said that a stable transition would also give the Geneva Accord a second chance.

The Swiss-backed peace accord was never officially endorsed by Arafat.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Yasser Arafat was born on August 24, 1929 in Cairo.

He was leader of the Palestinian Authority from 1993 and president from 1996.

He chaired the Palestine Liberation Organization from 1969 and led Fatah, the largest of the factions within the PLO.

In 1994, he was co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and foreign minister Shimon Peres.

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