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Ambassador calls for stronger Nato commitment

The Swiss already contribute troops to the Nato-led Kfor in Kosovo Keystone

The outgoing Swiss ambassador to Nato, Robert Mayor, says it is important for Switzerland to become more involved in peacekeeping missions as a sign of solidarity.

This content was published on February 27, 2007 - 12:20

Mayor told the Swiss News Agency the Swiss military contribution was minimal, mainly due to parliamentary resistance in Switzerland.

Switzerland is a partner member of Nato, which includes participation in the organisation's Partnership for Peace (PfP) and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. It has no plans to join the military alliance, as this would compromise Swiss neutrality.

Mayor has held his Brussels-based post since 2004 and is stepping down on Wednesday.

According to Mayor, Swiss cooperation generally works well, despite the fact that Swiss Defence Minister Samuel Schmid and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey have not attended any official Nato meetings in Belgium since 2003.

The ambassador said Switzerland had made a "symbolic commitment" to Afghanistan (two officers) and pointed to the "very appreciated collaboration" the country already made in the Balkans, especially in Kosovo, where around 200 Swiss soldiers are stationed as part of the Nato-led Kosovo Force (Kfor).

The Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), a recognised PfP training centre, and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), which is dedicated to promoting the civil-military relations in accordance with democratic principles, showed that Switzerland was a key player in this area, said Mayor.

Restrained cooperation

Debate has recently raged in the Swiss parliament about Swiss troops abroad, with the rightwing Swiss People's Party calling for a withdrawal from the PfP.

"There is no deficit in [our] Nato presence," said Mayor. But it would be "very regrettable" if Switzerland were to stop its military cooperation altogether, he said.

Mayor said Switzerland should show solidarity with other countries, adding that the country also benefited from cooperation.

He added that a greater participation in Nato or even the United Nations and the European Union would be "desirable". This would also help the country gain experience in the field.

However, it was important to remember that Switzerland had a tradition of "restrained" cooperation compared with the other western European PfP members – Finland, Ireland, neighbouring Austria and Sweden.

Peacekeeping support

Mayor's comments came as Peter Maurer, the Swiss Ambassador to the UN, said Switzerland supported wide-ranging reforms slated by the UN for its peacekeeping missions.

Speaking at the UN in New York on Monday, Maurer said Bern was in favour of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's plans to shake-up the missions by 2010.

He also signalled support for more complete and integrated missions that included humanitarian aid.

Maurer said the UN should make its peacekeeping missions into "guardians of the law" by defining the conditions for a return to the rule of law.

According to Maurer, the DCAF could also play a leading role here.

swissinfo with agencies

Nato

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) is an alliance of 26 countries from North America and Europe committed to fulfilling the goals of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty.

Nato's role is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members by political and military means.

The Swiss Mission to Nato was established in 1997. Its main task is to represent Switzerland as a partner country to Nato.

This includes participation in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the development of the Partnership for Peace Programme. The cooperation includes political, military and civil aspects.

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UN peacekeeping reforms

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proposed reforming UN peacekeeping operations by 2010 because the body is struggling to cope with its mounting peacekeeping responsibilities.

The department currently runs 18 missions around the world with nearly 100,000 peacekeepers.

Ban wants to split the current Department of Peacekeeping operations (DPKO) into two, both headed by an Under-Secretary-General.

One of the new departments would focus on planning, directing and providing political guidance to peacekeeping operations. The other would be responsible for finance, procurement and logistics.

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