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Switzerland assures Portugal of support over East Timor

President Ruth Dreifuss told visiting Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio that Switzerland was concerned about the crisis in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, and that the government would not remain passive in light of the violent events there.

This content was published on September 8, 1999 - 16:46

President Ruth Dreifuss (right) told visiting Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio that Switzerland was concerned about the crisis in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, and that the government would not remain passive in light of the violent events there.

Dreifuss made the statement in her official welcoming address for Sampaio, who was paying a one-day state visit on Wednesday.

Sampaio shortened his mission from three days to one because of the situation in East Timor, where hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced due to violence triggered by last week’s referendum on independence from Indonesia.

The Swiss government’s welcoming ceremony in Berne was preceded by a minute of silence for the victims of the conflict.

The Swiss president said the international community must do all it can to stop the terror and deportations in the territory, which was occupied by Indonesia in the mid-1970s and which has seen repeated violent protests against Indonesian rule in the past years.

Sampaio himself said on his arrival that the world must help East Timor and support the region’s democratically stated wish for independence.

In her address, Dreifuss also spoke about Swiss relations with the EU, which includes Portugal but not Switzerland.

The EU and Switzerland have signed a broad package of bilateral agreements that will bring Switzerland closer than ever to its European neighbours. The accords include economic, technical and social agreements but they still have to be approved by the parliaments of all EU member states and Switzerland.

During the negotiations of the accords, Portugal insisted that Switzerland upgrade the status of Portuguese workers in the country. Switzerland, in turn, tried to keep a tight lid on foreign workers entering the country under the now agreed free movement of people clause of the bilateral accords.

While the Portuguese media at times strongly criticised Switzerland’s hard stance, some Portuguese analysts described the dispute as having been blown out of proportion.

Dreifuss said Switzerland would implement the bilateral accords as quickly as possible.

From staff and wire reports.


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