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Deiss returns from successful Turkish visit

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has arrived back in Switzerland following a three day visit to Turkey, which he says has relaunched political relations between the two countries. It was the first such visit by a Swiss foreign minister since 1991.

This content was published on February 22, 2000 - 07:57

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has arrived back in Switzerland following a three day visit to Turkey, which he says has relaunched political relations between the two countries. It was the first such visit by a Swiss foreign minister since 1991.

Relations between Switzerland and Turkey had been strained since a Kurdish demonstrator was shot and killed outside the Turkish embassy in Berne in 1993. The foreign minister's visit was intended to build new bridges between the two sides.

On Tuesday, the third and final day of his visit, Deiss travelled to Istanbul for meetings with representatives of the confederation of Turkish industry, as well as of Swiss companies which are active in Turkey. Swiss exports to Turkey were worth around SFr1 billion last year, while imports totalled SFr370 million.

Earlier, Deiss had met with his Turkish counterpart, Ismail Cem, before holding talks with the Turkish president, Suleyman Demeril and the prime minister, Bulent Ecevit. They focused in particular on building stronger economic links between the two countries and on improving Turkey's human rights.

Among the key topics for discussion was penal reform in Turkey, which has yet to abolish the death penalty. The two sides agreed to set up a joint panel of experts to work together on the issue.

The case of the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, Abdullah Ocalan, was also raised during the talks. Deiss applauded Turkey's decision to await the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights before carrying out the death sentence on Ocalan.

Deiss was keen to point out that Switzerland was not trying to lecture the Turkish government, and pointed out that the Swiss goal with regard to human rights was to ensure efforts at reform should benefit all Turkish peoples.

On economic matters, Deiss agreed during his meeting with Cem that a high level representative of the Swiss economics ministry, David Syz, should visit Ankara in the second half of the year.

Deiss will remain in Switzerland until Friday, when he is due to begin a nine day tour of the Middle East. He will hold talks with Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, which are expected to focus on the stalled Middle East peace process.

From staff and wire reports


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