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Deiss satisfied with Russian economic talks

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss also visited the Kremlin

(Keystone Archive)

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss says talks he held with the Russian authorities during his two-day trip to the country were constructive.

Deiss said the two countries wanted to build up economic relations. "Both countries will profit from more cooperation," he said at the end of his visit to Moscow on Friday.

Deiss said the status of Yevgeny Adamov, the former Russian nuclear energy minister currently held in a Swiss jail, was not discussed and the issue would not affect economic relations.

The Swiss minister met his Russian counterpart, German Gref, as well as a representative of the Russian central bank on Thursday.

Speaking at a media conference, Deiss said that there had been a "good, warm and constructive climate" during the talks with Gref.

"Russia assured Switzerland that the conditions for economic cooperation with Bern would be the same as for the European Union countries," the minister said.

He said the Adamov case had not arisen. Two weeks ago the Russian foreign ministry summoned the number two at the Swiss embassy in Moscow and expressed "surprise and displeasure" at Switzerland's decision to extradite Adamov to the United States.

Russia had also filed an extradition request – seeking Adamov on fraud charges – but this was turned down by the Swiss, prompting Russian accusations that the decision was politically motivated.

Adamov is charged by the US with embezzling funds that had been destined for nuclear-safety upgrades in Russia.

No cloud

Deiss said that the issue would not cloud Swiss-Russian economic relations. He added that Gref had been very keen to discuss economic topics, taking extra time with the Swiss delegation.

Russia was in favour of intensifying cooperation with Switzerland, said Deiss. He reported Gref's interest in a trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association, of which Switzerland is a member. This would take place once Russia had joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). Negotiations are currently ongoing.

The WTO was also the subject of a meeting with a vice-president at the Russian central bank. Topics included allowing Swiss and foreign banks access into Russia.

Business community

Ueli Forster, head of the Swiss Business Federation, economiesuisse, and leader of the economic delegation accompanying Deiss, confirmed that Swiss companies were interested in Russia.

"Russia has become an important market and the potential is still very big," he said.

This is despite the fact that Swiss businesses are often confronted with problems concerning Russian administration and customs duties, said delegates. Corruption issues were also discussed.

Economic ties between Russia and Switzerland are gaining strength. In 2000 Russia bought SFr555 million ($432 million) worth of Swiss goods and services. By 2004 Swiss exports to Russia were worth SFr1.2 billion.

Swiss exporters see great potential in the Russian market, and indeed the primary purpose of Deiss's visit is to strengthen trade and economic ties.

Political ties

However, political ties have been more fraught.

In addition to the Adamov affair, the Russians are still embittered with the Swiss over the Überlingen plane crash.

In 2002 a Russian passenger plane and a cargo jet collided over southern Germany in Swiss-controlled airspace, killing all 71 of the mainly Russian passengers. Most were children.

Compensation to the victims' relatives was paid out in July 2004. But there was criticism from Russia that the process had taken too long.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The most recent visit by a Swiss economic minister to Russia was Pascal Couchepin in 2001.
In recent years Russia, which has a population of 144 million, has seen an average growth in its GDP of 7%.

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In brief

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss has held high-level economic talks in Moscow on October 20-21. He was accompanied by a delegation of representatives from the Swiss economy.

Deiss met his Russian counterpart, German Gref, and a representative from the Russian central bank.

Topics of the meetings included the building up of trade and investment relations and Russia's aim to join the WTO.

On Friday Deiss opened a Swiss-Russian economic forum, which sets out how Russian firms can do business with Switzerland.

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