Further steps to intensify relations between Switzerland and Lebanon

Press release, 27.08.2018

Switzerland and Lebanon have reaffirmed the wish to further deepen their traditionally strong ties. On Monday in Beirut, President Alain Berset expressed Switzerland’s solidarity with Lebanon, which has been severely affected by the Syrian crisis. In talks with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, Mr Berset discussed how cooperation on migration, humanitarian aid and on economic affairs could be improved.

During the presidential visit, representatives from the two countries signed an agreement on the liberalisation of visas for diplomatic passport holders. The agreement is the result of a dialogue on migration launched in the spring. A regular political dialogue has been in place since 2016. Both sides acknowledged the longstanding ties between Switzerland and Lebanon and the numerous parallels that exist between the multicultural and multi-confessional states. Mr Berset also stressed that Switzerland was aware of the great challenges faced by Lebanon, which has taken in 1.3 million persons displaced by the war in Syria, the highest density of refugees worldwide. This act is an expression of great solidarity on the part of the Lebanese people and authorities.

Switzerland is supporting the country in this situation and is working to protect and help cover the basic needs of refugees and those in need in Lebanon as part of a regional cooperation strategy. Mr Berset explained that Switzerland would continue to support Lebanon and that it intends to continue cooperation on migration issues. In Switzerland's view, the conditions are not yet in place for the safe return of displaced persons to Syria.

The two sides discussed progress and challenges regarding human rights issues, as well as Switzerland's and Lebanon's approaches to interfaith dialogue. The Swiss delegation offered to intensify meetings to exchange experiences on decentralisation and neutrality policy in future. Economic relations were also on the agenda. Lebanon is Switzerland's sixth most important trade partner in the Near and Middle East, although trade volumes have fallen in recent years. The Swiss delegation stressed the importance of legal certainty in influencing investment decisions by Swiss firms.

Second day in the north of the country

In Beirut, Mr Berset met with members of the international community and Lebanese civil society, as well as with artists and representatives from Swiss firms active in the country. He also laid a wreath on Martyrs' Square commemorating victims of a 1916 nationalist uprising.

On Tuesday, 28 August, Mr Berset will visit a refugee camp for Syrians in the north of the country. At the invitation of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, a meeting is also expected to take place with the country's most important religious leaders. The last stop on the journey will be Bsharri in the Qadisha Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Lebanese mountains, where he will visit a museum in honour of Khalil Gibran, Lebanon's national poet.

Further information:

Bilateral relations Switzerland–Lebanon
Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq)
Water and Sanitation for Syrian Refugees and Their Lebanese Hosts

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FDHA Information Service
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Federal Department of Home Affairs
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs