For Switzerland, there are no terror organizations

Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey acknowledges talks with Hamas; Israel: Swiss sending wrong signal.

ahmadinejad Merz Durban 2 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
ahmadinejad Merz Durban 2 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Switzerland continues to dismay Israel, as its Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey told Swiss RSR Radio on Wednesday that while she recognizes there are terrorists, Switzerland does not have a list of terrorist organizations because it believes that while a person can be called a terrorist, an organization cannot. During the interview, Calmy-Rey admitted that officials from her ministry met in June with a Hamas delegation - led by former Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar - when he was at an international conference in Geneva. The Swiss officials had joined a meeting the Hamas delegation held with former US diplomat Thomas Pickering, a former ambassador to the UN and undersecretary of state. Pickering is today the co-chairman of the non-profit International Crisis Group. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said "the Swiss government, by ignoring the murderous and extremist character of Hamas, is again making the wrong choice, sending the wrong signal, and missing an opportunity to side with the moderates in the Middle East." Palmor said "again" because in April, Israel recalled its ambassador to Bern for consultations after Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pointing to the year-long spat the Swiss are having with Libya over the arrest - and later release - in Switzerland of Muammar Gaddafi's son and daughter-in-law, Palmor said Gaddafi last week called for breaking up Switzerland, which he described as a "global mafia." "How would the Swiss feel if we invited Gaddafi here now to discuss the matter?" Palmor said. The Swiss Embassy in Tel Aviv said the Swiss Foreign Ministry had no comment on the issue. Palmor said that while Israel would not this time recall its envoy in Bern, Ilan Elgar, for consultations, the ambassador would make Israel's dissatisfaction known to the Swiss government. Switzerland is not a member of the EU. The EU, like the US, does consider Hamas a terrorist organization and has refused any contact with it until Hamas recognizes Israel, forswears terrorism and accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Although there are some voices inside the EU - primarily from Sweden and Belgium - that would like to ease these conditions so a dialogue could be maintained with Hamas, Palmor said there was no real concern in Jerusalem at this time that the EU would change its position on the matter. The US has also not changed its position on Hamas, with The Washington Post on Wednesday quoting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying that before Hamas can participate in peace talks, "we have made it clear, both publicly and privately, through all kinds of pronouncements, that we would expect Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence and agree to abide by prior agreements."