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Switzerland to triple aid to Tajikistan

Earlier during his trip, Joseph Deiss, visited a hospital in Uzbekistan

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has promised SFr15 million in aid to the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan - three times the current level.

Deiss announced the pledge after his meeting with the Tajik president, Emomali Rakhmonov, on the third lap of his sweep of Central Asian countries.

The two men also discussed human rights violations in Tajikistan, illegal drug trafficking and the situation in Afghanistan, with which it shares a 1,206-kilometre border.

Switzerland has also promised to help Tajikistan prepare its bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

The country is one of the poorest of the now independent former Soviet republics and suffered from internal political upheaval for much of the 1990s.

The last stop for Deiss on his three-nation trip will be Kyrgyzstan.

On Thursday, Deiss visited various Swiss-funded projects around the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, including one of several water-pumping stations. The stations, funded by the Swiss Finance Ministry, have been installed to combat drought in the region.

Deiss also visited a hospital for tuberculosis sufferers, financed by the Swiss Development Agency.

Deiss signs treaties

The Swiss foreign minister signed two bilateral accords with the Uzbek foreign minister, Abdulaziz Kamilov, on Wednesday, dealing with reforming taxation and facilitating freight transport between the two countries.

The agreements are part of a move to increase political and economic ties with Uzbekistan, considered the country with the greatest economic potential in the region.

Deiss also stressed the importance of continued administrative reforms in the former Soviet republics.

"These countries are working on the transition to democratic, market economies and there's still a lot to be done," Deiss explained, adding that the Swiss parliamentary model could serve as an example for reform.

Stability in Afghanistan

The foreign minister said he was anxious that Central Asian countries should not be overlooked in light of events in nearby Afghanistan.

"These countries are neighbours and they're involved and interested in stability in Afghanistan," said Deiss. "For example, as a land-locked country, Uzbekistan's shortest way to a port is via Afghanistan or Pakistan. So it's important both for them and for us to have a safe situation there."

"We also hope to promote human rights, and, with their help, be more efficient in places like Afghanistan," he added.

Switzerland represents the three Asian republics at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government has spent around SFr107 million ($64 million) in development aid for the region.

swissinfo with agencies

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