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Switzerland gears up for UN membership

Two more flags are likely to adorn UN headquarters in Geneva

(Keystone)

The government is holding talks to pave the way for Switzerland's entry to the United Nations in the autumn, three months after the electorate voted to join the institution.

The government has been holding private talks in canton Thurgau to discuss areas of priority in the run-up to September 10, when Switzerland will submit its application to gain entry into the organisation. It will then be up to the Security Council to grant final approval to Swiss membership.

Preparations by the Swiss Foreign Ministry have gathered pace since the results of the March votes were officially validated on May 14, with further talks due to be held next week.

Timorese competition

Switzerland is not the only nation applying for UN membership this year and it may be beaten to the post by East Timor, the world's youngest country. Analysts say the state, which became independent only last week, is likely to become the UN's 190th member, ahead of Switzerland.

"The people of Timor are in a hurry and they want endorsement from the international community that they are now truly independent," says Erwin Hofer, an official at the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

Hofer added that East Timor's membership would be a welcome sign of the UN's willingness to expand further.

Humanitarian role

Eight diplomatic posts have been created to deal with Switzerland's entry to the UN, including three apiece in Bern and New York.

The posts in New York are said to be key to Switzerland gaining more visibility within the organisation and to having a greater say in decision-making within the UN's humanitarian and social affairs committees.

"Switzerland is recognised for its humanitarian and development aid work and for its peacekeeping role," Hofer said. "And the international community expects us to step-up our contribution in these areas."

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