Yasser Arafat, the late leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Following the hijacking of two Swissair flights in 1970, the then Swiss foreign minister met in Geneva with senior officials of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by Yasser Arafat, according to reports by the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), to negotiate diplomatic ties and form a pact to avoid further terror attacks on Swiss soil.
While full details of the agreement are protected by a 50-year statute of limitations, according to the report. The secret negotiations risked creating a diplomatic crisis with the United States, Britain, Germany and Israel.
The negotiations took place following the hijacking by Palestinian groups of two Swissair flights in 1970.
In February of 1970, a Swissair plane bound for Tel Aviv was blown up shortly after taking flight killing all 47 passengers on board.
On September 6, 1970, a Swissair flight en route to New York was hijacked by the PFLP, an affiliate of the PLO, and forced a landing at Dawson's Field airstrip in Jordan.
The passengers were held for days and presented to television news crews from around the world, who were invited to hear the terrorists’ demands – the release of PLFP prisoners in Israel and in Europe.
The PFLP set a September 12 deadline for the release.
On September 11, one day before the deadline, over 200 of the hostages were transferred to Amman for release. But the Jewish passengers, along with the three flight crews, were separated and kept at the airstrip.
In a move designed to be both a media spectacle and to serve as a warning ahead of an expected assault by Jordanian army forces, on September 12, the PFLP blew up the explosive-laden planes. Almost immediately following the explosions, heavily-armed Jordanian troops advanced toward the airstrip, leading to a short stand-off.
Jordan declared war on Palestinian groups in the country, a weeks-long battle that left thousands of Palestinian fighters and civilians dead. The episode was dubbed Black September.
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