The Swiss representation in Minsk will be upgraded to a full embassy due to the growing strategic importance of the former Soviet republic for regional stability.
The decision was made by the seven-member Federal Council on Wednesday. The embassy will be officially inaugurated by Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis sometime this year.
“Switzerland sees great promise in Belarus's economic potential and in its commitment as an intermediary for stability in the region,” the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) said in a statement.
Switzerland has had a representation in Belarus since 2010. The Alpine nation had pushed for the lifting of European Union sanctions against Belarus, which eventually occurred in 2016. Since then, there have been several bilateral meetings on political and economic issues between the two countries.
Swiss train manufacturer Stadler set up an assembly plant near Minsk in 2013 that employs 450 locals. The company’s goal is to win a share of the regional market.
“There is great potential for upgrading the rolling stock in the states of the former Soviet Union, and more especially in Russia,” says the company’s website.
Belarus has a reputation as an authoritarian state with restrictive elections and limited civil liberties. It has been classified as “not free”external link by democracy watchdog Freedom House, which gave it a score of 19 out of 100 in its Freedom of the World report.
“Alongside the upgrading of the representation, the FDFA is strengthening its commitment in the area of human rights in Belarus,” said the government statement.