World Bulletin / News Desk
Switzerland has blocked nearly one billion Swiss francs ($1.07 billion) in stolen assets linked to dictators in four countries at the centre of the Arab spring - Egypt, Libya, Syria and Tunisia - the Swiss foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
Swiss authorities are cooperating with judicial authorities in Tunisia and Egypt to speed restoration of the funds, but it is expected to take years, said Valentin Zellweger, head of the international law department at the Swiss foreign ministry.
"Today a total of one billion francs is blocked in the framework of Arab spring," he told a news briefing in Geneva, giving the latest figures for funds frozen since early 2011.
The bulk of the assets, nearly 700 million francs, are tied to former President Hosni Mubarak and his entourage, he said.
Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter held talks in Cairo on Sunday with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamal Amr on judicial cooperation to restore the embezzled funds, he said.
Some 60 million francs linked to ousted Tunisian president Ben Ali has also been seized, Zellweger said. In line with U.N. Security Council sanctions, 100 million francs linked to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and 100 million francs linked to Syrian President Bashir al-Assad and associates are blocked.
Switzerland has worked hard in recent years to improve its image as a haven for ill-gotten gains, seizing the assets of deposed dictators and agreeing in 2009 to soften strict bank secrecy to help other countries catch tax cheats.
"In the past, the affair that was resolved most quickly was Abacha and it took 5 years," Zellweger said, referring to assets linked to the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.
The ship, named Gamal Abdel Nasser, left the shipyard of Saint-Nazaire on France's Atlantic coast on June 12.
U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura hopes peace talks can resume in July, but has warned they cannot proceed “while hostilities are escalating and civilians are starving”.
Both men were simultaneously visiting the European Union’s main governmental headquarters to talk with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Turkey and U.S.-led coalition strike 34 ISIL targets in northern Syria, military says
Group will secure city, maintain safety of civilians, Central Command says
Agreement to be finalized Sunday; Israel security cabinet to approve deal next week, Israeli dailies report
“We offer our thanks to Turkey and its authority for its insistence that Israel lift its blockade of Gaza Strip,” Hamas political leader says
Turkish military also hits PKK extremists positions in northern Iraq
Striking Assad ‘stops short of a war against a sovereign nation that is being backed by Russia and Iran,' White House says
Israel deliberately denies Palestinians control over their water sources and sets the ground for water domination.
Fishman said that such a plan is supported by the Arab countries, including Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia and that Dahlan is ready to go back.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet to discuss ways to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts early next week in Rome with US Secretary of State John Kerry
Experts agree history, uncertainty not on side of memo authors
UN chief Ban ki Moon has met with Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman over disagreements over the claims of targeting children in Yemen
Turkish Foreign Ministry describes reports of phosphorus bombs and incendiary cluster munitions as 'extremely worrying'
Israeli authorities carrying out secret excavations under East Jerusalem’s Al-Asqa Mosque compound.