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Deiss finds common ground in Japan

Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, meets Japan's Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, at his official residence in Tokyo on Monday

(Keystone)

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has held a series of high-level meetings in Japan, covering a range of "common interests".

Deiss met the Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, in Tokyo on Monday. The two men discussed issues such as humanitarian and development aid - notably in Afghanistan - as well the fight against terrorism and improving economic relations between the two countries.

"I think that we are on the same line as Japan on many issues, in particular questions like security but also economic development and humanitarian aid," Deiss told swissinfo.

"There are many domains where we can cooperate. For example, Japan has been very active in Afghanistan, as has Switzerland. So it was an opportunity to exchange experiences, but also to see where we could even go further in achieving common goals."

Japan has recently courted Swiss expertise in the field of development aid, dispatching experts to Bern to study how Switzerland assists poorer countries.

Bilateral ties

Deiss, who arrived in Japan on Sunday, has also been using the visit to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.

Japan is Switzerland's largest trading partner in Asia. In 2000, Swiss exports to Japan totalled more than SFr5.5 billion ($3.5 billion), while Japanese exports to Switzerland came to almost SFr4 billion.

Deiss held talks with his counterpart, Yoriko Kawaguchi, and Japan's deputy finance minister, Hidesha Ostuji, to discuss the Asian nation's economy and to push for improved access to Japan's markets.

He asked the Japanese to adopt a more flexible approach to Switzerland's new national carrier, "swiss", with a view to granting the airline more landing slots.

"Japan is a very important partner in terms of economic relations and the most important in Asia," he said. "I think there are several domains where we hope to even deepen and improve relations."

He also used the occasion to outline what Switzerland is doing to prevent Swiss financial institutions from being abused by money launderers and those wishing to finance terrorism.

"It was important to show how Switzerland is able to cooperate internationally in the fight against terrorism," said Deiss.

Sustainable development

The Swiss foreign minister is to travel to Indonesia to take part in preparatory talks for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which is being held in South Africa later this year.

He told swissinfo that the adoption of a sustainable policy for the development of mountain regions was a priority for the Swiss delegation.

However, Deiss said the major challenge for all those meeting in Johannesburg would be to go further than they did ten years ago in Rio, and not "step back".

"The most important element is that the outcome of Johannesburg is something which not only makes progress in respect of the present situation, but which is also realistic and will be possible to implement," he said.

by Anna Nelson and Adam Beaumont


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