Swiss, Spanish diplomatic chiefs in Libya to end spat

Ministers of Switzerland and Spain seek to end Swiss-Libya diplomatic row.

Tripoli: The foreign ministers of Switzerland and Spain were in Libya on Sunday to secure the return home of a Swiss businessman days after he was freed from jail, and end a bitter Swiss-Libya diplomatic row.

Miguel Angel Moratinos of Spain, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey arrived late Saturday in the Libyan capital, a report said.

They were met by Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim and, according to a Libyan official, they were expected to hold talks with officials aimed at solving the diplomatic row that erupted between Bern and Tripoli in 2008.

Journalists were, meanwhile, told to gather on Sunday at a Tripoli hotel where "talks and agreements" are due to take place, according to a message received by members of the foreign press from Libyan authorities.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that Moratinos and his Swiss counterpart would be discussing return home of Swiss businessman Max Goeldi, who was freed on Thursday after four months in a Libyan prison.

Goeldi has been at the centre of the diplomatic spat that was ignited after the brief arrest in Geneva of a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in July 2008.

The Swiss businessman was detained after Hannibal Gaddafi and his pregnant wife were held by Swiss police after two of their domestic staff charged they had been mistreated by the couple at a Geneva hotel.

He spent the past four months in a Libyan jail for visa offences, while another Swiss businessman detained with him in 2008 was allowed to return home in February.

Swiss media reports said that after releasing Goeldi from jail as a goodwill gesture, Libya is demanding a written agreement for a court inquiry to investigate the circumstances of Hannibal`s arrest.

Switzerland`s Le Matin newspaper said that the agreement had been negotiated with Spanish mediation, and that it was a condition for Goeldi`s exit from Libya.

His lawyer said in Libya that Goeldi has been given his passport and will be given permission to leave Libya on Sunday.

In March, Libya and the European Union lifted travel bans that were imposed as ties between the two sides soured.

Following Hannibal`s arrest, Tripoli halted oil deliveries to Switzerland, withdrew its funds from Swiss banks and expelled Swiss companies doing business in Libya.

It also demanded that those responsible for Hannibal`s arrest be put on trial.

The row also saw the Libyan leader declare jihad, or holy war, against Bern in late February and call for an economic boycott of Swiss goods. On March 03, Libya said it would impose a total economic embargo on Switzerland.

In May, a Swiss court ruled in favour of Hannibal in a case against the canton of Geneva and a newspaper over leaked police mugshots taken when he was arrested.

But it refused to grant damages sought by Hannibal of 100,000 francs (EUR 69,500, USD 95,500).

Bureau Report

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