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Talks Minister: Free-trade accord on the cards with US

Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis, left, shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis, left, shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Thursday

(Keystone/AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis is upbeat about a future free-trade agreement between Switzerland and the United States and says he has received no US pressure over the Swiss stance on Venezuela.

Cassis was speaking as he wrapped up a two-day trip to the USexternal link, where he met US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington.

“The free-trade agreement is clearly wanted by both sides. The question is no longer if, but when we can move forward,” Cassis told Swiss public television, SRF.external link

The US is waiting for more information from the Swiss on technical matters, he added.

But at the moment the starting of negotiations with Switzerland are not the priority for the US, Cassis continued. Mexico and China are at the top of the list.

Iran, Venezuela

The situation in Iran after the withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal last year was also discussed. Switzerland represents US interests in Iran, after Tehran and Washington broke off relations in 1980.

Cassis also spoke to the officials about the crisis in Venezuela. The US, which recognises the leader of the opposition Juan Guadió as interim president, “knew exactly what the Swiss position was and respected it”, Cassis saidexternal link. Switzerland has not yet recognised Guadió, unlike other European countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain.

+ Swiss living in Venezuela: their concerns

If Switzerland were called upon to mediate, it would be prepared to offer its good offices, Cassis explained. But no request has been made to date.

SDA-Keystone/SRF/RTS/ilj

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