Freed Swiss to leave Libya, 'action plan' signed: Swiss FM

13th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Freed Swiss businessman Max Goeldi was to return home on Sunday after nearly two years stranded in Libya, including four months in jail, as Bern and Tripoli resolved a bitter diplomatic row.

"Goeldi will leave Libya today," Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said after meeting officials in the Libyan capital. "This is a relief to him and to us."

Calmy-Rey also told reporters that Tripoli and Bern had signed an "action plan" to solve a row which has seen Goeldi stuck in Libya since the spat broke out in July 2008.

The plan, which was also signed by mediators Germany and Spain, aims to solve "bilateral problems expeditiously and in a constructive spirit," Calmy-Rey said.

"This is the beginning of a normalisation process. I am confident that Swiss-Libyan relations will find their traditional course. This is the desire of Switzerland and I am sure of Libya as well."

The Swiss foreign minister arrived in Libya late on Saturday with her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos in a bid to repatriate Goeldi, who was freed on Thursday after four months in jail for visa offences.

Spain, which holds the current presidency of the European Union, has along with Germany been mediating between Libya and Switzerland.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, meanwhile, flew in to Tripoli and met Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in a tent set up outside his residence, in a joint encounter with the European foreign ministers, an Italian source said.

No official agenda was given for Berlusconi's visit, amid speculation in Tripoli and Geneva that Goeldi could leave Libya headed for Italy with the prime minister.

The Swiss-Libya accord was signed after Calmy-Rey and Moratinos met Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa on Sunday.

Goeldi's lawyer went to the passport office on Sunday to pick up his client's exit visa, he told AFP, a day after the Swiss citizen was given back his passport by the Libyan authorities.

The businessman has been at the centre of a diplomatic spat sparked off by the brief arrest in Geneva in July 2008 of a son of Kadhafi.

Goeldi was detained in Tripoli in 2008, along with another Swiss businessman Rashid Hamdani, after Hannibal Kadhafi and his pregnant wife were held by Swiss police when two of their domestic staff charged they had been mistreated by the couple at a Geneva hotel.

Diplomatic ties further deteriorated when a Swiss newspaper published leaked police mugshots of Hannibal in September 2008 that were taken at the time of his arrest.

Under the action plan, "Switzerland expresses its apology for the unlawful publication of the photographs of Mr Hannibal Kadhafi," in Geneva on September 4, 2009, "which constitutes a breach of confidentiality under Swiss law."

Calmy-Rey said the Swiss authorities were committed to bringing the offenders to justice.

At the signing of the accord, Libya's foreign minister announced that Hannibal had been awarded 1.5 million euros (1.8 million dollars) in compensation by Geneva canton over the publication of the police mugshots.

In April, a Swiss court ruled in favour of Hannibal in a case against the canton and local newspaper Tribune de Geneve over the publication of the two photos, but it refused to award damages.

In August 2009, Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz paid a controversial visit to Tripoli, delivered an official apology for the detention of Hannibal Kadhafi and signed an agreement to normalise ties.

Merz also endorsed the creation of an arbitration tribunal, that was stipulated in Sunday's action plan.

One of the two Swiss businessmen, Hamdani, was allowed to return home in February and the following month Libya and the European Union lifted travel bans that were imposed in the wake of the row.

Following Hannibal's arrest, Tripoli halted oil deliveries to Switzerland, withdrew its funds from Swiss banks and expelled Swiss firms doing business in Libya, while demanding that those responsible for Hannibal's arrest face trial.

The spat also saw Libyan leader Kadhafi declare jihad, or holy war, against Bern in late February and call for an economic boycott of Swiss goods.

© 2010 AFP

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