Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has condemned a reported chemical weapons strike in Syria, demanding that “a light be shined” on the truth behind the attack.
Speaking from an international conference on Syria being held in Brussels, Burkhalter firmly denounced the attack reportedly carried out by Syrian government forces that killed at least 72 people on Tuesday.
He called on international political actors to show the same commitment to ending the Syrian conflict as humanitarian organisations have shown.
“As long as political negotiations aren’t leading to peace, humanitarian aid must continue and must be strengthened,” the foreign minister said.
Burkhalter underlined Switzerland’s commitment to “helping to deal with the Syrian crisis with clarity and determination” through “expanding room for dialogue, alleviating suffering and creating a willingness to reconstruct” the country that has been ravaged by civil war since 2011. He said that Switzerland would continue to make Geneva available to the international community for the development of a peace process in Syria.
Switzerland has pledged CHF66 million ($65.8 million) in aid to Syria for 2017 after having provided CHF250 million last year.
Burkhalter said on Wednesday that an additional CHF7.5 million would be allocated to promote peace in the region. For this, he said Syria’s neighbouring countries would be key, which he said are “admirable for their courage and solidarity”. Swiss development aid is currently being used to refurbish 140 schools in Lebanon and Jordan and to provide better access to water for Syrian refugees.
It is time, the foreign minister said, for the international community “to not be constantly pushed towards war, to contribute to peace and to commit to real prospects for reconstruction” in Syria, which “must be a strong message to Syrians that we are not forgetting them”.