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New chapter Swiss plan closer ties with Sri Lankan government

Burkhalter (left) was received by Sri Lankan President Sirisena and deputy Foreign Minister Perera

(Keystone)

Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter says Switzerland is willing to open a new chapter in bilateral relations with Sri Lanka following presidential elections in January.

On a visit to Colombo on Tuesday Burkhalter praised the new Sri Lankan government for its political reforms and its reconciliation efforts with ethnic minorities in the country.

Burkhalter stressed that an open and broad dialogue with all parties involved in 25 years of civil war was key to rebuilding confidence, according to a foreign ministry statement.

In talks with President Maithripala Sirisena and other top government representatives Burkhalter also discussed possibilities of boosting bilateral trade. The trade volume currently stands at about CHF300 million annually ($298 million), the statement added.

Critics

Human rights groups have warned that it is too early to normalise relations and prepare closer trade ties as tensions between the Sinhalese majority and the ethnic Tamil minority are continuing six years after the civil war officially ended.

Switzerland is home to more than 45,000 Tamils who fled the conflict. Last year 1,270 people from Sri Lanka applied for asylum in Switzerland – the third biggest single group.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch


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