Preparatory talks in Indonesia aimed at formulating a plan of action for August's earth summit in South Africa have ended in a stalemate.
However, Swiss delegates attending the conference on the island of Bali say they are still confident that an agreement will be reached at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
Serge Chappatte, deputy director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and head of the Swiss delegation, said he hoped the international community would be able to strike a deal based on "the lowest common denominator".
But Chappatte conceded that the failure to agree a way forward in Indonesia over two of the most important issues - trade and finance - was a major disappointment.
Delegates from more than 110 countries were able to find common ground on a number of themes, including tackling global poverty, curbing pollution and preserving ecosystems.
But the conference ran into opposition from the United States and other members of the G7 group of industrialised nations over trade and finance.
"This is not a disaster ... it's a conflict of interests between industrialised and developing countries," said Emil Salim, president of the Bali conference, who noted that 80 per cent of the action plan had been approved.
Switzerland is looking for concrete results in South Africa to force the implementation of Agenda 21 of the 1992 earth summit in Rio, which drew up measures aimed at guaranteeing sustainable development.
Speaking in Bali last week, the Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, said it was only through sustainable development that people could "create a world of peace and stability where human rights are respected".
The SDC believes countries can resolve their differences in time for Johannesburg. Chappatte points to the success of both last November's World Trade Organization summit in Doha and this year's UN conference on financing development in Monterrey in agreeing a common message.
"This would allow us to break the deadlock and get to grips with the theme of sustainable development," said Chappatte.
Despite the general sense of disappointment in Bali, the Swiss delegation was able to draw some comfort from the fact that Switzerland's "priority" of a sustainable policy for the development of mountain regions was adopted by other countries.
swissinfo with agencies
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