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Swiss asked to resolve row with Libya

Italy and Malta say Schengen 'black list' must be dropped

17 February, 13:22
Swiss asked to resolve row with Libya (ANSA) - Rome, February 17 - Italy and Malta on Wednesday called on Switzerland to resolve its differences with Libya and to drop its 'black list' of people it wanted kept out of the border-free Schengen area, which included Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The appeal was made in a joint statement issued after a meeting here between the foreign ministers of Italy, Malta and Libya which focused on Tripoli's decision to suspend business visas issued to citizens from the European Schengen area. A statement issued after the morning meeting between Italy's Franco Frattini, Tonio Borg of Malta and Libya's Musa Mohamed Kusa emphasized the importance of resolving the issue, which will be at the center of talks on Thursday between the Libya's foreign minister and the Spanish European union presidency. Libya on Sunday night began to block entry into the North African country to Schengen citizens with business visas and the next day said that such visas would no longer be issued nor respected.

While the European Union has condemned the move, Italy from the start has criticised Switzerland with Frattini saying that Bern was holding the Schengen area ''hostage'' over its bilateral dispute with Tripoli.

He added, however, that the EU should work to help the Swiss resolve its "bilateral problem".

The dispute between Libya and Switzerland began in July 2008 after the Swiss arrested a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Hannibal, and his wife for allegedly mistreating their domestic help. They were released after an out-of-court settlement was reached with the servants but Libya retaliated at the time by taking into custody two Swiss nationals on what appeared to be trumped-up charges. Frattini on Wednesday urged Tripoli to release the two Swiss engineers who have been held in Libya for 18 months.

After Switzerland joined Schengen, in December 2008, it issued a 'black list' of 188 'undesirables' who should be denied entry into the border-free area and included Gaddafi, his family and even members of his government.

Since Sunday night ten Italians have been turned away on their arrival in Libya and repatriated. No Italians were denied entry into the country on Tuesday.

The Italian embassy in Tripoli said that relatives of Italians resident in Libya, tourists, workers and "normal" businessmen were being allowed in but that no guarantees could be made.

On Monday the Italian foreign ministry urged Italians to avoid travelling to Libya. The Schengen area includes all European Union countries with the exception of Britain and Ireland, plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

photo: Foreign Minister Frattini

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