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Calmy-Rey pleads for new markets and friends

Calmy-Rey opened the three-day meeting in Bern

(Keystone)

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey says Switzerland has to make better use of potential partners around the world.

Addressing the annual meeting of Swiss ambassadors, she said Switzerland could not afford to focus its foreign policy exclusively on Europe.

In her opening speech on Monday, Calmy-Rey said that as Switzerland was an independent country outside the European Union, it was giving more importance to other key players including the United States and China.

However, Calmy-Rey said Switzerland did not want to irritate its European partners. She added it would be ridiculous to centre all efforts on a free-trade accord with the US.

"Switzerland needs markets; Switzerland needs friends," she said.

Calmy-Rey reminded her top diplomats that Switzerland's foreign policy was based on multilateralism, neutrality and a universal approach as agreed by the cabinet in May.

Visas

High on the agenda of the conference are efforts to combat corruption and other abuses of the visa system.

Calmy-Rey called for more awareness of possible problems and a more efficient use of the resources available.

The Swiss justice authorities are investigating foreign ministry employees in six countries, including Russia, Nigeria and Oman, suspected of irregularities concerning the granting of travel permits.

About 150 Swiss diplomats and other senior officials are taking part in the annual three-day ambassadors meeting in the Swiss capital Bern.

Senior representatives of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and, for the first time, consul-generals are participating. The president, Samuel Schmid, is also due to address the meeting.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The regular three-day meeting in the capital, Bern, brings together 150 Swiss representatives abroad.
Representatives of the government's development agency and, for the first time, consuls are also taking part.
President Samuel Schmid and other cabinet ministers are due to attend.

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