Swiss "policy of dialogue" explained to Israel

Following Israeli anger over a meeting between Switzerland and Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, Israel's ambassador to Switzerland has visited the foreign ministry.

This content was published on July 16, 2009

Deputy State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Pierre Helg explained to Ilan Elgar Switzerland's "policy of dialogue".

"In a conflict situation, Switzerland talks to all parties – therefore also Hamas," said a foreign ministry spokeswoman.

On Wednesday Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey confirmed talks took place with a top leader of Hamas.

It comes after Israel strongly criticised a reported meeting in Geneva two weeks ago between diplomats and Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and leader in the Gaza Strip.

"Hamas is an important political actor and must not be left out in discussions over a solution to the Middle East conflict," Calmy-Rey told Swiss radio.

She said Switzerland, unlike the European Union, did not consider Hamas a "terrorist organisation", but condemned any terrorist activities.

Relations between Switzerland and Israel have been strained in recent months after Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz received Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in April at an anti-racism conference in Geneva.

Shortly after that meeting Israel temporarily recalled Elgar for consultation and to express the Jewish state's displeasure over the meeting. and agencies

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