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Switzerland to contribute to KFOR troops in Kosovo

Switzerland will send troops to Kosovo as part of the international peace force, KFOR, the Swiss government said Wednesday. It also announced a two-phase plan for the repatriation of Kosovar refugees.

This content was published on June 23, 1999 - 16:40

Switzerland will send troops to Kosovo as part of the international peace force, KFOR, the Swiss government said Wednesday. It also announced a two-phase plan for the repatriation of Kosovar refugees.

In the first ever participation by Swiss professional troops in an international mission, Switzerland has decided to send 160 soldiers to the Serbian province.

The men will be unarmed because of Switzerland’s neutrality and will serve under the protection of Austrian forces. The Swiss company -called Swisscoy - will be involved mainly in logistical operations.

Switzerland’s involvement in the mission is expected to last until the end of 2000.

To cover the costs of Swisscoy and other emergency aid in Kosovo, Switzerland will make available an additional SFr150 million ($96 million). This includes funding for reconstruction projects in the province, as well as support for the neighbouring Balkan countries affected by the conflict.

In addition, the government extended by an additional six months the mandate of “Operation Alba” – the use of Superpuma helicopters to evacuate refugees and transport humanitarian aid to the region. Pictured above is a Swiss Puma helicopter bearing the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) logo. It was used to fly in bags of flour for Kosovar refugees in the Albanian border town of Kukes.

The Swiss government on Wednesday also approved a repatriation and reintegration programme for Kosovar refugees.

The first phase of the programme includes financial incentives of SFr2,000 ($1,300) for those returning to the province by the end of the year. In a second phase, the remaining refugees are expected to return to Kosovo within three years.

At the same time, Switzerland will provide structural support for the reconstruction of homes and schools, health, drinking water and agriculture, said the Justice and Police Ministry.

Sources: afp, apd, sda-ats


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