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Deiss "is welcome" to visit Turkey

Deiss (left) is pictured here with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at the 2004 WEF summit Keystone

Swiss Economics Minister Joseph Deiss is welcome to visit Turkey as planned in the autumn, according to a senior Turkish parliamentarian.

This content was published on June 15, 2005 - 08:00

The renewed invitation comes just days after the trip was thrown into doubt following a diplomatic row with Ankara over a Swiss investigation into a Turkish historian.

Mehmet Dülger, head of the foreign-affairs committee of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, told swissinfo that he had no reason to doubt that Deiss’s visit would go ahead as planned in September.

"I am sure that this visit will take place in Istanbul in September," said Dülger. "We are all convinced that this would be a very useful trip and a welcome opportunity to further [economic ties]."

He was speaking on the second day of the foreign-affairs committee’s week-long trip to Switzerland which has so far included meetings with Deiss and Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.

The visit was overshadowed last week by news that the Turkish trade minister, Kürsad Tüzman, had cancelled plans to speak later this month at the Swiss-Turkish Business Council in Zurich. It also emerged that Deiss’s trip to Turkey was unlikely to take place as scheduled.

Newspapers in Ankara reported that Tüzman had decided not to travel to Switzerland in protest at the treatment of Turkish historian Yusuf Halacoglu.

Last month the cantonal prosecutor’s office in the Swiss city of Winterthur launched an investigation into claims that Halacoglu had violated anti-racism laws by playing down the massacre of Armenians in 1915-18 during a speech in Switzerland in 2004.

Testing times

Turkey and Switzerland have been at odds over the Armenian question since 2003, when canton Vaud’s parliament – and later the House of Representatives – voted to recognise the killings as genocide.

Armenians say around 1.8 million people were killed. Turkey disputes this, putting the figure closer to 200,000.

But Dülger rejected suggestions that Swiss-Turkish relations could suffer as a result of the investigation into Halacoglu’s comments on Armenia.

The Turkish ambassador to Bern, Alev Kiliç, added that he had been assured by the Swiss authorities that there was "no reason to be concerned" about the case against the historian.

"It seems that an official complaint was made [about what Halacoglu said] and the prosecutor therefore had no choice but to launch an investigation," said Kiliç.

"Our understanding is that the legal proceedings now have to run their natural course."

Dülger confirmed that Halacoglu’s case had come up during discussions with government officials.

But he made it clear that the focus of the talks – which included meetings with Swiss parliamentary colleagues – was on how to strengthen bilateral ties.

The five-member Turkish delegation travels to Geneva on Wednesday for meetings at the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. The parliamentarians move on to Zurich on Thursday for talks with Swiss business leaders.

swissinfo

Key facts

The foreign-affairs committee of the Turkish Grand National Assembly is currently on a five-day visit to Switzerland.
The delegation has held talks with Swiss parliamentarians as well as Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and Economics Minister Joseph Deiss. Meetings in Geneva and Zurich are also planned.
The trip is a reciprocal visit: a Swiss delegation visited Ankara last year.

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