Conflict prevention a priority, notes Guterres in Bern

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (left) and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter in Bern KEYSTONE / PETER SCHNEIDER

Switzerland and the United Nations should increase their joint efforts to prevent conflict, finds the new UN secretary general.

This content was published on April 24, 2017 - 21:45

During his first official visit to Bern on Monday, Antonio Guterres cited an increasing need for multilateral governance. He said that the relationship between the UN and Switzerland was a political issue for him because Switzerland supports multilateralism.

“At the moment, there are great difficulties in solving persistent conflicts,” said Guterres at a press conference after his meeting with Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, who echoed the commitment to cooperation, noting the importance of mediation and the role of International Geneva. He and Guterres discussed augmenting the role of International Geneva and the issue of UN reforms.

The discussion covered several ongoing conflicts, including Syria’s. Burkhalter reaffirmed Switzerland’s support for the mediation efforts by Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy to Syria. He also stressed the need to mitigate the humanitarian impact of the Syrian conflict and reiterated Switzerland’s pledge to disburse CHF 66 million ($66 million) for this purpose in 2017.

Burkhalter also mentioned the “Mediation in Peace Processes” programme to be launched by federal technology institute ETH Zurich in November 2017. Burkhalter and Guterres also discussed the food crisis currently affecting several African countries.

Later, Guterres attended a working dinner hosted by Swiss President Doris Leuthard. On Tuesday, along with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, Burkhalter and Guterres will co-chair a high-level pledging event for Yemen in Geneva, aimed at scaling up the humanitarian response and mobilising urgent resources in support of the Yemeni people.

The former prime minister of Portugal, Guterres is not exactly a stranger to Switzerland. He headed the Geneva-based UN refugee office from 2005 to 2015.

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