Switzerland has pledged to step up cooperation with Nato through the military alliance’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme.This content was published on October 13, 2003 - 19:57
During a visit to Bern by Nato’s outgoing secretary-general, George Robertson, the Swiss government said it wanted to improve coordination in peace work.
Robertson praised Switzerland, which is not a Nato member, for its valuable contribution to crisis regions.
“Switzerland is a country that believes that you have to go where the crisis is, instead of waiting for the crisis to come to Switzerland,” he said.
“And I salute the efforts that have been made by Switzerland within the PfP.”
The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, said Switzerland aimed to work more closely with the organisation in future, regardless of its expansion from 19 to 26 countries in 2004.
“Switzerland will remain an important partner of the military alliance, even after the expansion,” Calmy-Rey said.
The PfP programme enables countries that are not members of Nato to pursue military cooperation with the alliance.
Switzerland joined the organisation’s partnership programme in 1996, and has been providing troops and military experts for Nato-led missions.
During Monday’s meeting, Calmy-Rey said Switzerland would strive to improve border controls in countries such as Afghanistan, in a bid to stop the trafficking of drugs from the region to Europe.
“Better border control is also important for our own security,” she said.
Robertson welcomed the move, but stressed that Swiss support was also needed in other trouble spots.
“The problems of Afghanistan are not just in Afghanistan. One of the things we are looking at, with the active support of Switzerland, is how we deal with border controls and security,” he said.
“Switzerland is a very strong supporter of that concept here in Europe and in the Balkans.”
The Swiss defence minister, Samuel Schmid, who was also present at the talks, said Switzerland would try to send more soldiers to Afghanistan.
Two Swiss peacekeepers were sent to the country in June to work with the International Security Assistance Force.
“There are two specialists in Afghanistan, and it would be possible to double this number,” Schmid said. “It’s not a lot, but we are engaged.”
“If we wanted to increase this number [further] we would have to go to parliament and then we would also need [the backing] of the United Nations Security Council.”
swissinfo with agencies
Switzerland has been a member of Nato’s partnership programme since 1996.
The Swiss government has provided military experts for Nato-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
In 2004, seven new countries are due to join the alliance, bringing the number of member countries to 26.
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