January 18, 2022

Raven Tribune

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Swiss location: The spirit of Geneva

Status: 10.01.2022 05:00 am

As a place for dialogue, Geneva has seen historic turning points and dramatic failures. Why are diplomats and politicians being dragged back to this city for talks in times of crisis?

Sandra Biegger, ARD Studio Geneva

In Quai de Mont Blanc, there is one large hotel after another. Seagulls sail through the air above the promenade on Lake Geneva, small boats dance on the water, and in the background you can see somewhat snow-capped mountains. No question about it, Geneva is beautiful and if you have the money you need it is always worth a trip.

Of course, top politicians around the world do not have time to walk on the lake, says Matthias Schulz, professor of international relations and transnational history at the University of Geneva. However, the importance of a beautiful environment should not be underestimated, especially in difficult negotiations.

When it comes to Mont Blanc or Lake Geneva, it’s easy to smile when the surroundings are nice. “These are good preconditions for conflicting parties to approach each other in pleasant situations.”

Pitton and Putin did not come to Geneva on their own. But they took advantage of the place last year – at least in front of the cameras, teasing each other.

Created by: A.P.

There is no shortage of places to negotiate

Often, but not always, there are plenty of UN agencies in Geneva. Negotiations between the governments are taking place in one of the buildings. However, delegates often use hotels or properties such as Villa La Grange above Lake Geneva. US and Russian presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin met there six months ago.

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UN Large parks around buildings can be well-protected, Schulz insists, and “is an important criterion for the confidentiality of negotiations between parties who suspect each other.”

In addition, with the UN headquarters in Geneva, there are embassies in many countries – including staff, including intelligence.

An important step towards ending the Cold War: the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting in Geneva in November 1985.

Image: Image Alliance / KEYSTONE

The allure of neutrality

Mountains and water, well-preserved parks, beautiful scenery and foreign embassies – of course there are other places in the world. But Schulz says Geneva also has the advantage of being in a politically neutral Switzerland. That is, no one has to travel to the other side of the conflict or to any of their allies. That is why one goes to Geneva especially “when conflicts are already at an advanced stage or seem insoluble”.

“Spirit of Geneva” – It has already achieved great things. For example, the meeting between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Secretary-General Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

However, negotiations in the city on Lake Geneva did not always lead to the desired conclusion. For example, in 1991, the then US and Iraqi Foreign Ministers James Baker and Tariq Aziz met there. The meeting was the final attempt to persuade Iraq to withdraw peacefully from previously occupied Kuwait. As is well known, without success.

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