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Deiss to encourage reforms in Central Asia

Foreign minister Joseph Deiss is in central Asia for talks

(Keystone)

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has begun a tour of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to discuss bilateral cooperation.

Deiss is scheduled to meet the presidents and foreign ministers of the three central Asian republics during his week-long visit.

The Swiss foreign ministry said Deiss would encourage the governments in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to continue political and economic reforms.

Switzerland represents the three Asian republics at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The government has spent about SFr107 million ($64 million) in development aid for the region since 1993.

The fight against international terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and human rights will also be topics of discussion, according to the foreign ministry.

In addition, Deiss is due to visit several Swiss aid projects in central Asia. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are among the main beneficiaries of Swiss development aid.

Impact of conflict

The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs said the conflict in Afghanistan put additional strain on the fragile economy of neighbouring countries.

"Even 10 years after independence, these countries face immense problems. The transition can only point to a few successes, and [they] need support from the international community for some time," a statement added.

Swiss projects in central Asia focus on modernising water and energy supply, as well as promoting the private sector by providing bank guarantees and loans.

Other efforts include promoting private investment by Swiss companies and supporting education programmes.

Switzerland also supports moves for administrative reforms in the three republics, and bids to negotiate membership of the World Trade Organization for Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Two Asian tours

Deiss is the first Swiss foreign minister to visit the region afters the three Asian republics won independence from the former Soviet Union 10 years ago.

The Swiss foreign minister is also scheduled to travel to India, Pakistan, and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan later this month. But it is not clear whether he will visit Afghanistan during the tour of south east Asia.

swissinfo with agencies

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