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First state visit to Turkey begins

Swiss President, Pascal Couchepin, begins an official visit to Turkey on Friday – the first ever visit to Turkey by a Swiss president.

It is the second visit in a week to Turkey by a Swiss government minister and represents an improvement of relations between the two countries.

Couchepin – Switzerland’s interior minister who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year – will meet President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his four-day visit.

They will discuss political, cultural and economic relations including energy issues since Turkey is a transit country for oil and gas supplies to Europe, the Swiss interior ministry said in a statement.

Relations between the two nations have been soured over disagreements about whether the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in 1917 amounted to genocide.

Signs of a thaw came in September, when Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and her Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, signed a memorandum of understanding in Bern to strengthen ties.

Calmy-Rey also held talks with Babacan last week in Istanbul on the sidelines of a regional meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Economics Minister Doris Leuthard is due to travel to Turkey later this month and is expected to discuss the state of progress of the oil and gas pipelines.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR