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State visit marks 50 years of Swiss-NZ ties

New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully (l) shakes hands with Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter Keystone

Didier Burkhalter will become the first Swiss foreign minister to visit Australia and New Zealand during a mission to strengthen relations that marks the 50th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties between Switzerland and New Zealand.

Burkhalter arrived in Auckland on Friday to be greeted by New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully before going on to meet Prime Minister John Key to discuss measures to enhance bilateral cooperation.

On the agenda are talks about further cooperation between the two countries on human rights, environmental and climate change issues at the United Nations. 

“The collaboration between our two countries is already close and should become even more so despite our geographical distance,” Burkhalter said when he arrived in New Zealand.

Some 7,000 Swiss nationals live in New Zealand and a further 30,000 in Australia, the third country Burkhalter will visit on his trip along with the Pacific island of Vanuatu.

G20 nudge

Burkhalter is later expected to press Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for an invitation to the G20 finance ministers meeting under Australia’s presidency next year. Russia opened the doors for the first time to a Swiss delegation to the corresponding meeting this year.

Switzerland is keen to retain its place at the table to discuss such issues as a global framework for the automatic reporting of tax information.

Burkhalter will become the first Swiss cabinet minister to visit Vanuatu on October 26-27 to reiterate Switzerland’s support for Pacific islands on the issue of climate change.

Switzerland has supported the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable for the last five years, and this year participated for the first time in the Pacific Islands Forum. In 2014, Switzerland is scheduled to play a role in the third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, which takes place once every 10 years.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR