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

13th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Freed Swiss businessman Max Goeldi will return home on Sunday after spending four months in a Libyan jail amid a nearly two-year-old Swiss-Libya diplomatic row, the Swiss foreign minister said.

Micheline Calmy-Rey also told reporters that Tripoli and Berne have signed an "action plan" to solve the bitter row that saw Goeldi stuck in Libya since the spat broke out in July 2008.

"Goeldi will leave Libya today," Calmy-Rey said after meeting Libyan officials.

Spain, which holds the current presidency of the European Union, also signed the agreement along with Germany which has been mediating between Libya and Switzerland, Calmy-Rey said.

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

A Libyan official said earlier that Calmy-Rey and Miguel Angel Moratinos had met Foreign Minister Musa Kusa on Sunday and that an accord was due to be signed after the meeting.

The Spanish foreign ministry said on Saturday that Moratinos and Calmy-Rey would be discussing Goeldi's return home.

Goeldi's lawyer went to the passport office on Sunday to pick up his client's exit visa, he told AFP, a day after saying the Swiss citizen could leave on Sunday and had been given his his passport from 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 Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Goeldi was detained after Hannibal Kadhafi and his pregnant wife were held by police when two of their domestic staff charged they had been mistreated by the couple at a Geneva hotel.

Another Swiss businessman detained in Tripoli in 2008 was allowed to return home in February.

Swiss media reported that after releasing Goeldi from jail as a goodwill gesture, Libya was demanding a written agreement for a court inquiry into the circumstances of Hannibal's arrest.

Switzerland's Le Matin newspaper said that the agreement had been negotiated with Spanish mediation, and that it was a condition for Goeldi to be able to leave the country.

The weekend newspaper Le Matin Dimanche warned, however, that Calmy-Rey "should not make the mistake of signing it before Max Goeldi is on board the Spanish plane or has left Libya."

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 between the two countries.

In March this year, 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 the Libyan leader declare jihad, or holy war, against Bern in late February and call for an economic boycott of Swiss goods. On March 3, Libya said it would impose a total economic embargo on Switzerland.

In May, a Swiss court ruled in favour of Hannibal in a case against the canton of Geneva and a newspaper over leaked police mugshots taken when he was arrested.

But it refused to grant damages sought by Hannibal of 100,000 francs (69,500 euros, 95,500 dollars).

© 2010 AFP

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