Kuwait seeks end to diplomatic row between Libya and Switzerland

February 23, 2010

Shaikh Mohammad Al Sabah

Kuwait will seek to help defuse the diplomatic tension between Libya and Switzerland, the Kuwaiti foreign minister has said.

Shaikh Mohammad Al Sabah who started on Monday a European tour of Portugal, Britain, Luxemburg and Belgium, will also visit Libya for discussions that include the Arab summit to be hosted by Tripoli next month as well as the diplomatic row between Tripoli and Geneva.

“The visit to Libya is highly significant because it comes amid preparations for the annual summit,” Shaikh Mohammad said. “But, there is also the standoff between Switzerland and Libya and its effect on the Libyan-European relations. I will take up this issue during my stops in Europe and will brief the Libyan foreign minister on the outcome of the meetings with European officials,” Shaikh Mohammad was quoted as telling Kuwaiti media prior to his departure.

The row between Tripoli and Berne started in July 2008 when two Swiss men were barred from leaving Libya after police in Geneva angered Tripoli by arresting a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on charges of abusing two domestic helpers. The charges were later dropped, while Tripoli has denied there was any link between the two cases.

However, the two men remained in Libya and the row took a European dimension last week when Tripoli said it would not issue entry visas to European citizens whose countries are in the Schengen border-free zone. The move was ostensibly in retaliation for Switzerland’s imposition of visa restrictions on 188 high-ranking Libyans.

Libya chose Schengen, and not the European Union, apparently because Switzerland is not in the EU but is in Schengen, as are two other non-EU countries, Iceland and Norway.

The Schengen zone includes 22 of the 27 European Union member states. The five EU member states that are not in Schengen are Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Irish Republic, Romania and the UK.

Last week, the Libyan and Swiss foreign met in Madrid to seek an end to the diplomatic spat.

However, Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU said big differences remained between the feuding countries.

“There has been progress and overall a will to find a solution, but I cannot hide the difficulty, the difficult situation which Libyan and Swiss authorities are in at the moment,” Moratinos said.

Kuwait last month attempted to mediate between Palestinian rival factions Fatah and Hamas and help them sign a long-due agreement in Cairo. However, the insistence by Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mohammad Abbas not to meet Hamas leader Khalid Mishael before the signing of the agreement and similar terms spelled out by Egypt have resulted in the suspension of the attempts.


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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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