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Boosting start-ups Swiss lead campaign to support Middle East entrepreneurs

Ignazio Cassis

Switzerland's foreign minister is thinking out of the box in the search for Middle East solutions.

(© Ti-Press)

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has unveiled plans to help entrepreneurs in the Middle East to set up businesses. He is asking other countries to contribute to the scheme aimed at boosting the economies of the region.

Speaking to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, Cassis said such support would help young people in conflict-stricken countries. “Young people should not be thinking first and foremost who their enemy is. They should be thinking about how to build their wealth.”

Cassis did not go into specifics of how this would work in practice. It is unclear whether he is thinking of direct subsidies and loans or other measures. But he said he has already raised the subject with his counterparts in Austria, Germany and Russia.

The object is to forge an international coalition to regenerate the economies of war torn Middle East countries. “As long as there are no long-term prospects in Syria, the millions of refugees living in neighbouring countries will not return home,” he said. “I’m calling for concrete measures to work on economic prospects, for example supporting start-ups.”

Last year Cassis sparked controversy when he criticised the work of a United Nations aid programme for Palestinian refugees. Cassis said maintaining refugee camps in neighbouring countries was giving refugees false hopes about returning to their homeland, which hindered the peace process.

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