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Trade and politics Swiss minister seeks dialogue in Saudi Arabia

It was Schneider-Ammann's third visit to Gulf state countries in a year. The picture shows men holding their swords during a welcoming ceremony for US President Trump in May

(Reuters)

Economic Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann has held talks in Saudi Arabia focusing on trade relations but he also raised political and human rights issues.

“We were surprised how openly the discussions were,” a spokesman for the Swiss delegation said at the end of the visit to Jeddah on Sunday.

Bilateral trade relations and closer ties between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) with the Gulf Cooperation Council were at the centre of the talks with three senior government members, notably the economics, finance and investment ministers.

The trade volume between the two countries stands at CHF3.2 billion ($3.3 billion).

The Swiss government also hopes to help Saudi Arabia realise its ambitious Vision 2030 reform programme, including improving the role of woman in Saudi society, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper reported. 

Political tensions

Schneider-Ammann also used the opportunity to express Switzerland’s concerns about the political tensions on the Arab peninsula over Iran, according to a statement by the economics ministry.

The SonntagsBlick newspaper quoted Schneider-Ammann as saying Switzerland was ready to offer its good offices if the parties to the conflict so wished.

“There are reciprocal interests," he said.

It was the third visit by Schneider-Ammann to the Gulf region over the past 12 months. Last May, he received the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, in Bern.

Saudi Arabia was the third of four stops on Schneider-Ammann’s current tour abroad.  He held talks in Russia and Indonesia is now in the United States with the main aim to promote bilateral trade relations.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/urs


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