Swiss and US commit to finding Kosovo solution

Rice and Calmy-Rey hope to strengthen Swiss-US ties Keystone

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and her US counterpart Condoleezza Rice have promised to redouble their joint efforts to find a peaceful Kosovo solution.

This content was published on January 23, 2008 - 17:26

The two parties met in Zurich on Wednesday to discuss further cooperation in relation to the breakaway province and other conflict zones such as the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Rice spoke for 30 minutes with Calmy-Rey at Zurich airport en route to attending the World Economic Forum summit in Davos. It was the first time both ministers had met on Swiss soil.

Switzerland is home to ten per cent of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, making its fate a prominent political issue. Calmy-Rey has publicly declared her support for the province's independence and it was recently announced that a Swiss peacekeeping force would remain there until 2011.

"We share the same conviction and commitment that a peaceful solution is the only way to resolve the question of the status of Kosovo," Calmy-Rey said on Wednesday.

"Madam Secretary [Rice] has suggested that she would welcome a stronger cooperation with Switzerland on this issue. I replied that Switzerland is interested to strengthen this cooperation. We also agreed to coordinate our views with regard to future steps."

Rice said all parties should "engage constructively" to resolve "the last remaining piece of the Balkans [puzzle]." She had previously stated that Kosovo could never be part of Serbia again.

Neither minister gave concrete details of how their strengthened cooperation would operate.

Strong links

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Rice dismissed suggestions that the US and Europe disagreed on how to resolve the Kosovo situation, but hinted that the process needed to be speeded up. The main stumbling block is Russia's opposition to Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

After their meeting, Calmy-Rey and Rice were also at pains to stress the strong links between Switzerland and the United States, as demonstrated by a memorandum of understanding signed in 2006 to lay the foundations for cooperation on foreign affairs, security and foreign issues.

This cooperation is exemplified by Switzerland's representation of US interests in Iran since 1980 through its Tehran embassy.

However, not all has gone well in the past. Efforts to sign a free trade agreement between the two countries foundered in January 2006 over the thorny subject of agriculture.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

In brief

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations, backed by Nato troops, since the alliance's 1999 bombing campaign to end a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

The 90 per cent Albanian majority reject return to Serb rule. Newly-elected leaders of the province have promised to coordinate a declaration of independence with the US and the EU, which is due to take over supervision of the territory from the United Nations.

In 2005 Switzerland became the first state worldwide to call for formal independence for Kosovo.

Switzerland is not part of the group of nations - Germany, the United States, France, Britain, Italy and Russia – that are attempting to determine the fate of Kosovo, but it is actively involved in the debate.

Up to 220 Swiss soldiers are deployed as part of the multinational Kosovo Force (Kfor). An additional 50 peacekeepers can be sent to the province for stints lasting up to two months in the case of a deteriorating situation.

The mandate of this Swisscoy force was extended to 2011 by the Swiss government in December last year.

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