Swiss foreign minister tours North and West Africa

The Swiss delegation (left) is led by Foreign Minister Cassis. Keystone / Youcef Dehouche

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis held talks with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad and Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum in Algiers at the start of a week-long visit to North and West Africa.

This content was published on February 9, 2021 - 18:35, sb

The discussions in Algiers from Sunday to Tuesday focused on migration, regional security and management of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as plans to boost economic relations, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Both sides agreed to step up cooperation “in various fields” and to settle conflicts “at a regional and international level” peacefully, Boukadoum was quoted by the Algerian Press service.

In Algiers, the interviews centred on challenges affecting North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, the situation in the Sahel as well as migration issues and human rights. Switzerland's support for the UN peace process in Libya was also discussed, the foreign ministry said in a statement External linkon Tuesday.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Cassis also raised the case of Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni, a regional correspondent for TV5 Monde and RSF. Arrested while covering a demonstration, the journalist was sentenced to three years in prison for incitement to demonstrate and attacking the integrity of the national territory.

The Swiss foreign minister also met Algeria’s Health Minister Abderrahmane Benbouzid to discuss the pandemic and Swiss companies’ contributions towards reforms in Algeria's hospital sector. The two officials oversaw the signing of two agreements. According to media reports, one of the accords, signed with Roche Algeria, concerns the management of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, neurological diseases and haemophilia. The Swiss minister also held talks with the new Algerian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce regarding economic cooperation.

The last visit to Algiers by a Swiss foreign minister was in 2006.

Cassis now plans to visit Mali, Senegal and Gambia until February 13 during his first trip abroad this year.

High on the agenda of the talks are the Swiss government’s foreign policy strategy for the next four years. The aim is to “optimise coordination between different diplomatic, economic and development policy instruments”, the foreign ministry said.

The promotion of dialogue, economic development and digitalisation as well as the Covid-19 pandemic will also be discussed.

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