Kuwait’s foreign minister under fire for “siding” with Libya in visa row with Switzerland

March 3, 2010

Mohammad Sabah Al Salem

Kuwait’s foreign minister has come under an unusual amount of criticism from a lawmaker angered by the official’s siding with Libya in its visa standoff with Switzerland.

Tripoli and Bern are embroiled in a bitter row sparked by the Swiss police interrogation of Hannibal Gaddafi, the son of Libya’s leader Moammar Gaddafi, over allegations of abusing hotel staff.

The row has spilled over to the European Union after Bern imposed a ban on around 180 Libyan officials, including members of the Gaddafi family. The Swiss decision meant that that no Schengen country may issue visas to those people on the grounds that Switzerland is a member of the Schengen area.

Meeting reporters in Kuwait City, Shaikh Mohammad Sabah Al Salem said on Tuesday that he found Switzerland’s attitude towards Libya “bizarre.”

“The Swiss ban means that leading Libyan personalities such as Dr Ali Triki, the president of the United Nations General Assembly, who is required to make frequent trips, cannot travel to Switzerland,” he said. “The Swiss have to reconsider their decision as it seems to clash with international laws and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”

However, Kuwaiti MP Mislim Al Barrak blasted the foreign minister for his statement and demanded to know “what prompted him to take sides with Libya against Switzerland.”

“His statement is deeply emotional and unbalanced. Switzerland is a country of law and institutions and his claim that its attitude towards Libya is bizarre is unacceptable,” Al Barrak said. “The minister is defending Gaddafi who has overreacted and called for a holy war because Switzerland, the country of law, investigated his son for his misbehaviour with two Arabs. Why didn’t Qaddafi call for jihad when Kuwait was attacked by Iraq? Qaddafi was the first leader to glorify the Iraqi savage aggression on Kuwait,” the MP said.

According to Al Barrak, Switzerland should be hailed for its support of Kuwait when it was occupied by Iraqi troops in 1990.

“Switzerland has always been with us whereas Libya took over our embassy and burned our flag. Our foreign minister is the only Arab official to have defended the Libyans,” the MP said.

Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco have said that they supported Libya in the visa row. Last month Italy, Switzerland’s neighbour that has significant economic ties with Libya, did not conceal its severe judgement of Bern’s behaviour.

“I don’t think considering Gaddafi or his ambassador Ali Triki, current president of the UN General Assembly, threats to national security could have been construed as acceptable behaviour,” Franco Frattini, Italy’s minister for foreign affairs, said.

“This is a bilateral dispute that involves Switzerland and Libya. It was decided, in the case of this dispute, to apply the Schengen Treaty, which originated for quite a different purpose. This choice has ended up indirectly involving 26 of the treaty’s 27 signatory countries,” he said.





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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