Swiss foreign office apparently prepared to mediate in Spanish-Catalan stalemate

The Swiss government told Swiss public broadcaster RTS that it was creating a platform for dialogue.

Swiss foreign office apparently prepared to mediate in Spanish-Catalan stalemate
Didier Bukhalter. Photo: Sergei Karpukhin/POOL/AFP.

Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter's department told RTS that his ministry is “in contact with the two parties.” No further detail was available. 

The Swiss daily site notes that too much transparency at this stage could compromise Switzerland's ability to successfully earn the trust of both parties. It also suggests the Swiss federal canton system could serve as a model to overcome the current impasse in Catalunya.

On October 1st, nearly 500 people in Catalunya were injured in violent clashes between police and voters as Catalans voted in a referendum on independence from Spain, which both the Spanish government and Spain's constitutional court have declared illegal.

Spain has threatened to invoke Article 155 of the constitution, which allows it to take extraordinary measures to protect its sovereignty, while Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, has said he will make a unilateral declaration of independence as early as next Monday.

The Spanish constitutional court has ordered the suspension of the Catalan parliament's session in which the referendum results were to be presented on Monday. 

A man waves a Catalan flag during general strikes in Catalunya on October 3rd following the October 1st referendum on independence. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP.  

The Swiss government has a long history of mediation and support to areas of conflict, including in the Balkans, the Middle East, Sudan, the Great Lakes region, Tajikistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia/Aceh, Colombia and Guatemala, according to the Swiss government's website. 

“Swiss peace-building activities include diplomatic initiatives (the Human Security Network, the Small Arms Survey, economic development through the prevention of armed violence, the UN resolution on justice in transition processes) and strategic partnerships,” adds the government. 

The Swiss government is also involved – together with Holland, Sweden, Italy and Germany – in ensuring the ceasefire between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia is observed by both parties.  

READ MORE: Switzerland rates among world's top ‘soft powers’