Simon Marti and Reza Rafi
At the beginning of the week, a three-person Swiss delegation was in Kiev. Among the interviewees were the deputy prime minister of Ukraine and the prosecutor general. The envoys of the foreign ministry had an important mission: their boss, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis (61), is striving for great things. Switzerland is to become a protective power for relations between the fighting parties, Ukraine and Russia.
The wires are warming up, according to reports, the Ukrainian side is still concerned, above all, with technical issues. Moscow is the greater unknown. The Kremlin is not paying attention to itself. President Vladimir Putin (69) does not want to make decisions until the agreement is ready to be signed.
Odds are “fifty fifty”
The chances of a breakthrough are now “fifty-fifty,” says an EDA man familiar with negotiation. Cassis knocked on doors in Moscow and Kiev on February 24, shortly after the war began. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, 72, then made Switzerland’s progress public in a TV interview in March. On April 30, Cassis reaffirmed his plan in a confidence-building telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (44). An additional opportunity to continue the talks was the May World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos GR, as reported by the CH Media newspapers.
Parliament is now involved. On Friday a week ago, on the sidelines of the summer session, an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee (APK) of the National Council was held. There, too, the focus was on the mandate of the protective authority. Johannes Matyassy (64), deputy secretary of state at the Department of Foreign Affairs, informed the people’s representatives about the state of the negotiations. The supreme diplomat pleaded with politicians to strictly respect the secrecy of the Commission. In the face of the diplomatic coup, the FDFA is increasingly nervous about its defeat in the last few meters.
Is there any reason for optimism?
Behind closed doors, however, several meeting participants expressed optimism about SonntagsBlick. The current view is as follows: had Russia not been interested in good Swiss offices, the negotiations would have already collapsed.
It is undisputed in party politics that Berne should assume a protective mandate in power. The SVP, in particular, sees this as a silver ball of neutral foreign policy. Or, as her country councilor Roland Rino Büchel (56) put it, protecting the credentials of power is a tried and tested measure of diplomacy. “You are guaranteed to serve peace more than membership of the Security Council,” says St. Galler. “I just hope that Switzerland’s sanctions against Russia do not torpedo these efforts.”
All parties for it
Foreign Minister Cassis is aware of this: the Ticino resident knows all too well that good service is one of the few foreign policy transactions in which he enjoys the support of a whole spectrum of parties.
The SVP even put this tradition of foreign policy into play as an argument against sanctions against Russia. The neutrality debate, which Christoph Blocher has been pushing since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine (81), has also had little impact on the project.
Cassis will assume that with his seat on the UN Security Council, there will soon be even more fierce fighting on this flank, as decisions in the Security Council will become a permanent item on the agenda in Parliament.
competition is tough
Switzerland’s attempt to narrate as a “war party” further disrupts the diplomatic efforts, and that certainly should not help build confidence in Moscow.
After all, the competition in the field of good offices is fierce. Traditionally, the Scandinavians are ready, but also Austria, whose capital Vienna is the seat of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Different countries offer their services
In recent years, new players such as Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Singapore have emerged organizing conferences and resolving behind-the-scenes conflicts. In the Ukrainian war, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (68) successfully established Turkey as a mediator – incidentally with a clever, though cynical masterpiece: Ankara supplies Ukraine with weapons and at the same time rejects Russian sanctions.
Switzerland’s most important protective mandate has been in force since 1980: Berne enables the direct exchange of information between Iran’s and the US’s worst enemies. The orders from Tehran and Washington have given the Confederation great prestige over the past four decades – and has opened the door to diplomatic business many times.
Whether Kyiv and Moscow also give the green light to the government’s defense status also depends on external factors, such as the course of the war and the behavior of other governments. At FDFA, the fate is not in your hands.
In any case, with the turning point, Cassis would have had his monument.