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Austrian foreign minister to visit Berne

Austria's new foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner (pictured), will make her first visit to Switzerland next week. The announcement was made by the Swiss foreign ministry.

This content was published on February 29, 2000 - 21:56

Austria's new foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will make her first visit to Switzerland next week. The announcement was made by the Swiss foreign ministry.

Ferrero-Waldner, a member of the mainstream conservative Austrian People's Party, is scheduled to visit Berne on March 8, when she will hold talks with her Swiss counterpart, Joseph Deiss.

News of Ferrero-Waldner's planned visit came just hours after Switzerland gave its first reaction to the resignation of Jörg Haider on Monday as leader of Austria's far right Freedom Party. Deiss welcomed his resignation as a positive gesture towards Austria's European partners.

Austria's 14 fellow European Union members have frozen bilateral ties with Vienna over the inclusion of Haider's party in the government. But Switzerland has steered clear of such moves, preferring to judge the new government on its actions.

Last week, a Swiss government spokesman confirmed that the Austrian chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel, wanted to pay an official visit to Switzerland and would be made welcome. The spokesman said no date had been set for the visit but that it was hoped it would take place soon.

He said it would offer a good opportunity to discuss the problems related to Vienna's new government.

Leaders of the Jewish community in Switzerland have urged the government to delay an invitation. They say more time is needed to judge whether the Austrian government is respecting democratic values.

From staff and wire reports


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