Maurer defends controversial Saudi comments

As Swiss President, Ueli Maurer also addressed the World Economic Forum event in Davos. © KEYSTONE / Gian Ehrenzeller

Swiss President Ueli Maurer says recent comments he made about Saudi Arabia in relation to Jamal Khashoggi have been taken out of context. Maurer sparked protest when he appeared to say that Swiss-Saudi relations had normalised, despite the Middle East country still being suspected of murdering the journalist.

This content was published on January 26, 2019 - 14:30

But Maurer, who also heads the Swiss finance ministry, told Swiss public radio SRF that his remarks were confined to talks with his Saudi counterpart at the World Economic Forum (WEF), rather than the general political situation.

The meeting between the two ministers took place on Thursday at the WEF summit in Davos. Afterwards Maurer was quoted as saying: “We have long since dealt with the Khashoggi case. We have agreed to resume the financial dialogue and to normalise relations.”

Speaking to SRFExternal link on Saturday, Maurer insisted that he had not been speaking about the Swiss position on Khashoggi in general. His “dealt with” comment had instead referred specifically to his meeting with the Saudi finance minister, he said.

The episode has provoked outrage from other Swiss politicians who accuse Maurer of breaking ranks with the common position of the Swiss government.

In October, the Swiss government stressed the “need for a detailed, rigorous, and transparent inquiry”, following the killing of the Saudi critic, allegedly by agents of the Saudi rulers. A planned trip to Saudi Arabia by Maurer was also postponed last year. 

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