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427 words - May 6, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
From May 1 to 5, Federal Councillor in charge of Switzerland's foreign affairs Didier Burkhalter was in the "Near East" for a working visit. His first visit in the region dates back 30 years ago. During his visit to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, Mr. Burkhalter met with the Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
With his Israeli counterparts, Mr. Burkhalter's talks focused on the deepening of the bilateral relations and about how Switzerland can further work towards the resumption and success of the Middle East peace process. Mr. Netanyahu expressed his interest into Switzerland's experience about referendums, saying "if we get to a peace agreement with the Palestinians, I’d like to bring it to a referendum." However, although the two countries can learn from each other, the comparison may prove irrelevant on security issues since Switzerland's "neighborhood is more tranquil and less challenging" than Israel's to say the least, Mr. Netanyahu added. Greatly appreciating "Switzerland's involvement in the peace process, President Peres stressed "Switzerland and Israel have excellent cooperation in many fields including science, research, security and the fight against terrorism," Mr. Burkhalter replied that as "his country attached great importance to understanding of Israel's security situation," he emphasized "that Switzerland would not be neutral when it comes to terrorism and condemns terror completely."
With his Palestinian counterparts, Mr.
Burkhalter also tackled the peace process and discussed how Switzerland can
enhance its cooperation programmes in West
Jordan and its contribution to the troops of international observers "whose
task is to ensure stability in the city of Hebron, which is to the south of
Jerusalem." In November 2012, President Abbas paid an official to Switzerland
where he met with the whole leadership, including the President of the Swiss
Confederation, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. Mr. Burkhalter explained that Switzerland
maintains good relations with the Palestinian Authority and also expressed
his deep concern at the escalation of violence throughout the region, hence
Switzerland's renewed commitment to advancing peace and stability in the "Near
Switzerland has for a long time advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "which it continues to regard as the most appropriate means of resolving the conflict, and of guaranteeing Israel's future and that of a Palestinian state," said Mr. Burkhalter. The Councillor expressed his belief that there is a "window of opportunity for renewing peace talks" and added that Switzerland would be willing to contribute in whatever way it could to the talks.
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