The Swiss government has received King Harald V and his wife Sonja of Norway for a two-day state visit.This content was published on April 5, 2006 - 20:00
Both sides highlighted the many similarities between Switzerland – in the heart of Europe – and the Scandinavian country.
The royal couple was given a reception with military honours in parliament square in the capital, Bern, on Wednesday.
Despite the wintry weather several hundred people watched the ceremony which was attended by all seven members of the Swiss cabinet, including President Moritz Leuenberger.
In his speech Leuenberger pointed out the common interests of Switzerland and Norway in promoting peace and sustainable growth.
King Harald said both countries had learned to respect nature and shared a commitment to international cooperation.
At a news conference Leuenberger added that both Switzerland and Norway were keen to contribute to the political development of Europe, although neither of the states is a member of the European Union.
He also said both countries cooperated closely to promote the creation of a permanent United Nations Human Rights Council.
The King pointed out the cooperation between the two countries in efforts to bring peace to Sri Lanka. He also stressed Switzerland's position in the heart of Europe.
On Thursday Leuenberger will accompany the royal guests on a tour to eastern Switzerland, including the renowned library at the St Gallen abbey.
Queen Sonja will inaugurate an exhibition in Zurich dedicated to Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen who died 100 years ago.
To coincide with the two-day visit, a series of conferences is taking place focusing on peace promotion, economic sustainability, equal opportunities and road safety.
The royal couple arrived in Switzerland on Tuesday, visiting the Geneva-based UN refugee agency and the World Health Organization.
swissinfo with agencies
Traditionally Switzerland organises two state visits a year.
King Harald V of Norway is the 11th royal guest to Switzerland since 1965. Six years ago King Albert II of Belgium visited Switzerland.
In 1968 Harald's father, King Olav V, was the first royal visitor to Switzerland from Norway.
Norway and Switzerland are members of the European Free Trade Association (Efta), but they have not joined the EU.
Last year Switzerland exported goods – mainly machinery and pharmaceutical products - worth SFr596 million ($464.6 million) to Norway.
Norwegian goods imported by Switzerland – mainly agricultural produce, oil, and metal products - accounted for SFr299.
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