The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has arrived in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, for the third lap of his sweep of Central Asian countries.
Deiss is scheduled to meet his counterpart, Talbak Nazarov, and the Tajik president, Emomali Rachmonov, to discuss boosting Swiss development aid and bilateral treaties between the two countries, before finally heading to Kyrgyzstan on Friday.
On Thursday, Deiss visited various Swiss-funded projects around the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, including one of several water-pumping stations. The stations, funded by the Swiss Finance Ministry, have been installed to combat drought in the region.
Deiss also visited a hospital for sufferers of tuberculosis, financed by the Swiss Development agency.
The Swiss foreign minister signed two bilateral accords with the Uzbek foreign minister, Abdulaziz Kamilov, on Wednesday, dealing with reforming taxation and facilitating freight transport between the two countries.
The agreements are part of a move to increase political and economic ties with Uzbekistan, considered the country with the greatest economic potential in the region.
Deiss also stressed the importance of continued administrative reforms in the former Soviet republics.
"These countries are working on the transition to democratic, market economies and there's still a lot to be done," Deiss explained, adding the Swiss parliamentary model could serve as an example for reform.
Stability in Afghanistan
The foreign minister said he was anxious that the Central Asian countries should not be overlooked in light of events of nearby Afghanistan.
"These countries are neighbours and they're involved and interested in stability in Afghanistan," Deiss said. "For example, as a land-locked country, Uzbekistan's shortest way to a port is via Afghanistan or Pakistan. So it's important both for them and for us to have a safe situation there."
"We also hope to promote human rights, and, with their help, be more efficient in places like Afghanistan," he added.
Switzerland represents the three Asian republics at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government has spent around SFr107 million ($64 million) in development aid for the region.