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Overseas trip   Swiss President talks business in Kazakhstan 

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (R) and Swiss Federal President Ueli Maurer (L)

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, right, and Swiss Federal President Ueli Maurer attend a press conference in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on Friday

(Keystone / Stanislav Filipov)

Switzerland’s president Ueli Maruer has held talks with his Kazakh counterpart, as part of a trip to the region that has raised eyebrows in some quarters. 

Discussions with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and the prime minister Askar Mamin, focused on further deepening of bilateral relations and cooperation at international level, according to a Swiss finance ministry statementexternal link.  

The talks in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, followed on from a visit to Russia where Maurer met Russian President Valdimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday. 

Maurer, who holds the rotating presidency, was accompanied to Kazakhstan by a delegation of Swiss business representatives. More than 40 Swiss companies already operate in the country, some of which have been there for over 20 years, and Switzerland is the third largest investor in Kazakhstan, the Swiss statement said.

+ What do Swiss presidents actually do? 

Maurer also “commended Kazakhstan as an important partner for Switzerland in Central Asia and as an anchor of stability in the region”, it added. 

Belt and Road 

Talks were held in particular on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), seen as a bridge between China, and Asia, Europe and beyond, which should offer both Switzerland and Kazakhstan the opportunity to engage in major infrastructure and investment projects, the statement said. 

+ What is the Belt and Road Initiative?external link 

In the spring of this year, Switzerland and China signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing which should facilitate cooperation between Switzerland, China and third countries on the BRI. 

Putin visit 

On Thursday, Maurer held talks with Putin in the Russian capital Moscow, focusing on economic issues and Switzerland’s role as an intermediary between Russia and Georgia. The leaders also agreed on closer cooperation, a Swiss statement said on Thursdayexternal link

Not everyone in Switzerland was happy about the Russia trip, which follows on from several other visits, most controversially to Saudi Arabia in October in the wake of the Khashoggi affair, which have been dubbed an ‘autocrat world tour’.  

Critics argue official visits to places like China, Saudi Arabia and Russia send the wrong message, others reckon speaking to everyone is part of Swiss foreign policy and certainly doesn’t mean that Switzerland agrees with everyone.  

Swiss government/SDA/

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