Swiss envoys in Libya to rebuild diplomacy

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Swiss diplomats arrived in Tripoli Monday to "normalise" diplomatic relations after a 2008 dispute.

Geneva -- Swiss diplomats arrived in Libya Monday in a bid to rebuild diplomatic ties after a dispute erupted in 2008 when a son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi was arrested in a Geneva hotel.

"A delegation of several people from Switzerland has arrived in Tripoli to hold talks," said the Swiss foreign ministry in a statement.

The statement said the aim of the talks was to "normalise" diplomatic relations between the two countries.

A dispute broke out between Tripoli and Bern when police in Geneva arrested Hannibal Kadhafi and his wife over allegations that they had mistreated two servants.

Swiss police detained the pair for two days, sparking outrage from Libyan authorities.

Although the charges against Kadhafi were later dropped, the Geneva incident sparked a string of penalising measures from Tripoli, including a freeze on Swiss business, the withdrawal of Libyan assets from Swiss banks and disruption to oil deliveries.

Officials then refused to grant exit visas to two Swiss businessmen, accusing them of immigration offences and banning them from leaving the country.

After a year of failed attempts at normalising relations, Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz apologised in August to the Libyan people for the Geneva incident.

His controversial apology was presented as a negotiation for the swift return of the two businessmen.

Swiss authorities said in September that Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi assured Merz on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting in New York that he would "commit himself" to allowing the two men to return home.

But a day later they were detained by Libyan authorities in a "safe" place.

The pair had been staying at the Swiss embassy in Tripoli but Libya justified the move over fears Switzerland could resort to military action to free them.

AFP / Expatica

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