Switzerland offers Afghanistan good offices, charter flight for evacuees


ZURICH, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Switzerland is ready to offer the services of its good offices to host international meetings or assist in peace talks surrounding the situation in Afghanistan, foreign ministry officials said on Friday.

"Switzerland continues to stand ready to offer its good offices, that's a permanent offer," Johannes Matyassy, deputy head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, told journalists during a press conference.

"But here it is very important to add: that's provided the other involved parties want that," he added. Neutral Switzerland had provided mediation services related to Afghanistan in the past and has acts as an intermediary in Iran.

Also on Friday, the foreign ministry said the country had organised a charter flight to Uzbekistan to support the air bridge of individuals evacuated from Afghanistan.

"On 21 August 2021, a SWISS plane will fly to Tashkent to pick up people previously evacuated from Kabul. The plane will bring Swiss citizens and people from different countries to Europe," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The 300-seater SWISS (LHAG.DE) aircraft will be sent with medical personnel and 1.3 million masks aboard to protect against COVID-19, the ministry said.

Several NATO nations on Friday proposed keeping Kabul airport open for evacuations beyond the current deadline of Aug. 31, as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg pointed to challenges getting individuals to the airport in Afghanistan in the first place, saying this was "an urgent need".

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Emma Farge

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