Switzerland offers its support, aid to Kosovo

/ Source: The Associated Press

Switzerland's foreign minister visited Pristina on Friday to reinforce her country's close ties with Kosovo by promising more aid and opening a new embassy.

Switzerland was among the first of many nations to recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia, which it declared on Feb. 17.

"Our two countries share strong human ties," Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said, referring to the 180,000 Albanians who left Kosovo to live in Switzerland during the 1980s and 1990s, for economic reasons or to flee ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

Calmy-Rey said the Swiss give $79 million of aid to Kosovo each year and will seek to raise that amount after a donor's conference in June.

She said the Swiss government will help with Kosovo's economic development and employment, rule of law, improvements in infrastructure and protection of minorities.

Calmy-Rey met with President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of Kosovo. Later, she was to open the Swiss Embassy in Pristina, the capital.

"Kosovo is a state for us, and we will have normal relations... That's why we're opening an embassy," she said.

Switzerland contributes to the 16,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force in charge of securing Kosovo, and plans to send policemen and judges to an EU-led 1,800-strong rule-of-law mission.