Switzerland and Egypt begin new chapter in their relations

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, and his Egyptian counterpart, Amr Moussa (pictured) have agreed to lay to rest disputes over the Luxor massacre of 1997, in which 36 Swiss nationals died. Deiss is on a nine-day tour of the Middle East.

This content was published on February 26, 2000 - 23:48

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, and his Egyptian counterpart, Amr Moussa (pictured) have agreed to lay to rest disputes over the Luxor Massacre of 1997, in which 36 Swiss nationals died. Deiss is on a nine-day tour of the Middle East.

Deiss and and his Egyptian counterpart, Amr Moussa, said they were both looking forward to opening a new chapter in their countries relations. At the same time, however, Deiss said the tragedy, which inflicted a great deal of pain, would never be forgotten.

Speaking about previous calls for compensation from the Egyptian government to the Swiss victims, Deiss said: "We had discussions...in the past concerning compensation payments...which Egypt could not provide. So this cash question is now settled."

The Swiss foreign minister called on Egypt to tighten security in its tourism industry, as a lesson to be learnt from the massacre.

Moussa promised there would not be a repeat of the tragedy because tighter security measures were already in place.

The Swiss nationals were among 62 tourists killed in the massacre, which occurred when Islamic militants opened fire on visitors to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in the resort city.

Switzerland's role in the Middle East peace process has also featured high on the agenda. No fewer than 45 countries are participating in the peace process, which was relaunched after a two-year hiatus last month.

Unlike the United States and Russia, Switzerland is not involved in solving the major political questions. It is responsible instead for issues related to the "human dimension", preparing proposals aimed at fostering understanding between cultures and respect for human rights.

On Tuesday, Deiss will travel on to Syria, where he'll meet the president, Hafez al-Assad, and foreign minister, Farouk al-Shara. They will discuss how to improve the lukewarm relationship between Berne and Damascus. He is also scheduled to visit Swiss observers monitoring the ceasefire in the Golan Heights.

The minister will then travel on to Lebanon, where, as well as meeting President Emile Lahoud, he will sign a bilateral agreement on the protection and promotion of investments. He also plans to visit a number of Swiss-sponsored projects in the region which are aimed at promoting human rights and cultural pluralism.

Deiss's visit is the first official trip by a Swiss foreign minister to the three countries since 1985. He is accompanied by federal officials, parliamentarians and Swiss business leaders.

From staff and wire reports

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