Tensions between Switzerland and Libya are continuing to escalate as Libyan
leader Moammar Gadhafi enacts a number of retaliatory measures to protest the
recent arrest of his son and wife in Geneva. The son, Hannibal Gadhafi and his
wife were arrested July 15 charged with abusing two of their domestic servants.
Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
The couple left Switzerland after paying a bail totaling $1.5 million. Since returning home, the Swiss government has felt the heat of Colonel Gadhafi's anger. He has issued a series of reprisal measures against Switzerland, which show no signs of abating.
Former Director of the Center for Security Policy in Zurich, Kurt Spillman, says he was taken aback by Libya's reaction to this diplomatic flap.
"It is surprising how fast this developed and I think we may have underestimated the speed it might develop because the political system in Libya is entirely alien to the Swiss law and the democratically controlled processes," he said. "Whereas there, one man can make very quick, very drastic decisions."
Colonel Gadhafi's vengeance was indeed quick and biting. In the past few days, two Swiss citizens have been arrested in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, accused of having violated Libyan immigration laws. The Swiss foreign ministry says the men, who work for the Swiss-Swedish technology group, ABB and for Nestle, are being held under what it calls "alarming conditions" in a small cell with 20 other people.
Libya has recalled some of its diplomats from Switzerland, reduced the number of flights there and stopped issuing visas to Swiss citizens.
In its most drastic action, the general national maritime transportation of Libya says it has stopped all oil exports to Switzerland, and Swiss ships have been banned from entering the country's ports. No confirmation of the Libyan move has been given by Swiss officials.
Libya supplies more than half of Switzerland's crude oil imports. While Managing Director of Swiss Oil Association Rolf Hartl calls this situation deplorable, he says he believes the crisis will eventually subside.
"I do positively think we do not have to worry because at the end of the day business as usual will come back," he said. "And, even if at the end of the day there would be a shortage of supply, this will be compensated by other means. And, I do not think this will increase the consumer prices at the pump station."
Hartl says Switzerland has more than four months of oil reserves upon which to draw. It also can buy oil from other sources should the need arrive.
Diplomatic moves are being made to ease the tensions. But Libya's leader insists Switzerland apologize for the arrest of his son and daughter-in-law before relations can be normalized.