Swiss president to visit Saudi Arabia after all

Swiss President Ueli Maurer, centre, greets Hisham Alqahtani, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Switzerland during the traditional New Year's reception of the diplomatic corps on January 16, 2019 in Bern © Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

Swiss President Ueli Maurer will visit Saudi Arabia, it has been announced. The surprise move comes after the trip was postponed, following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

This content was published on October 25, 2019 - 14:06

Maurer will start the visit on Saturday and stay until October 29, a Federal Department of Finance statement said on Friday. He will be accompanied by a delegation from the financial sector.

“During the visit aimed at strengthening financial and economic relations with the two most important countries for Switzerland in the Gulf region, Mr Maurer will also be received by heads of state in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Riyadh,” the statement added.

The planned visit has been controversial following the international outcry over the murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi Istanbul consulate on October 2 last year. The Saudis have conceded that Khashoggi was indeed murdered by a special team dispatched from Riyadh for the purpose, and they have opened their own investigation involving 11 individuals. They nevertheless deny categorically that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was aware of the operation.

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In May the Federal Council, Switzerland’s governing body, wrote in a reaction to a motion about the planned visit that it would look into the issue. The decision depended on further developments, it said. In June came a statement that no visit was planned.

The official talks are expected to address tensions in the region, Switzerland’s good offices and other issues raised during the political dialogue held in July, the statement continued.

Saudi Arabia is a key partner for Switzerland in the Arab world and the Middle East region. Switzerland also represents Saudi Arabia’s interests in Iran and Iran’s interests in Saudi Arabia. 

Swiss State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Pascale Baeriswyl visited Saudi Arabia in July for political consultations.

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