Pierre Aubert, who led the foreign ministry from 1978 to 1987, died on Wednesday aged 89. A member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, Aubert was known for his numerous foreign trips to promote Swiss neutrality.
The politician from La Chaux-de-Fonds in canton Neuchâtel, died on June 8. His funeral service will take place in Neuchâtel next Monday.
Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann, said the former foreign minister had been committed to an ‘open and humane’ Switzerland.
“For the services to our country we owe him our gratitude and respect,” he said in a statement. “Even when he was losing his strength, he continued to be interested in everything and encouraged me with friendly advice and his sense of humour.”
Aubert worked as a lawyer, before joining the Swiss cabinet on December 7, 1977. He began his political career in La Chaux-de Fonds local politics before becoming a member of Neuchâtel’s cantonal parliament and later a senator in Bern in 1971.
During his ten years as foreign minister, he pursued an active foreign policy strategy and made 55 trips abroad, including 39 official journeys. He maintained close contact with many European heads of state and visited the United States, Russia and China as well as numerous states in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
During his trip to Africa he signed a declaration against apartheid in Nigeria in 1979. He was the first Swiss foreign minister to establish contacts with the PLO leadership when he received Faruk Kaddhumi in July 1980 in Bern. He led the unsuccessful Swiss campaign to join the United Nations in 1986.
He held the rotating presidential position in 1983 and 1987. He was also chancellor of the University of Neuchâtel from 1971 to 1977.
Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said he was deeply saddened by the news of Aubert's death. He said Aubert was a very open and constructive person, who will also be remembered for his work towards promoting human rights.
"At the end of the 1970s he set up a proper strategy for Switzerland," he recalled. "He was a real pioneer...he was a very kind political figure, which is rare in this field. He was interested in what I was doing. I was surprised how knowledgeable he was and he sent me small messages of encouragement which I found very touching."
swissinfo.ch with agencies