Foreign minister Ignazio Cassis has held official talks in Bern with his counterpart Tandi Dorji of Bhutan on boosting economic and political ties between the two countries.
“Switzerland and the Himalayan state can look back on many years of friendly relations, which for a long time were based primarily on development cooperation,” says a Swiss foreign ministry press releaseexternal link, but now the relationship is expanding.
Cassis congratulated Dorji on economic progress in Bhutan, which is emerging from the “Least Developed Country” category as defined by the UN. The two men discussed the first visit of a Swiss trade delegation to Bhutan next month. Its goal is to explore potential for stronger economic ties which are currently worth only some CHF1.1 million ($1.1 million).
Cassis also congratulated his counterpart on human rights progress in Bhutan, saying Switzerland would play an active role in its Universal Periodic Reviewexternal link, which takes place before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on May 8.
Bhutan has been criticized in the past for discrimination against ethnic minorities and failure to uphold freedom of religion, but has made significant progressexternal link since abandoning absolute monarchy and moving to democracy in 2008.
The two foreign ministers also discussed political, scientific and cultural ties as well as common concerns on climate change, which is causing glaciers to melt in sensitive mountain regions. They also spoke about the upcoming visit to Switzerland from May 27-29 of Bhutan’s National Land Planning Commission. The Bhutanese delegation wants to hold talks with Swiss specialists in the field.
Switzerland and Bhutan are both mountainous countries of a similar size. They have longstanding ties and tend to support each other in international organisations.