Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis proposes Switzerland's good offices to Cyprus

Press releases, 09.07.2019

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis's visit to Nicosia was marked by the Cyprus question, which has remained unresolved for decades. After a visit to the buffer zone between the north and the south of the island on Monday, Mr Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, met today with Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Christodoulides.

Federal Councillor Cassis and Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides are sitting at a wooden table and talking
Mr Cassis and Mr Christodoulides discussed the issue of migration. © FDFA

"We would be delighted if Switzerland could once again provide an impetus for the resumption of negotiations to resolve the Cyprus issue. Stability in the Mediterranean region is of great importance to Switzerland," said Mr Cassis in Nicosia at the conclusion of his visit. He added that if all parties were willing to return to the negotiating table, Switzerland would be ready to facilitate further rounds of talks. "I said as much to my counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides, when we met today," he said.

On Monday, Mr Cassis visited the buffer zone between the north and south of the island, which is patrolled by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). UN Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar had previously briefed him on the work carried out by the UNFICYP since its establishment in 1964.

Mr Cassis also met with the members of the joint humanitarian Committee on Missing Persons (CMP), comprised of a member of the Turkish Cypriot community, a member of the Greek Cypriot community, and a third, neutral member. The third member has always been a Swiss national. "It's also thanks to our neutrality that a Swiss expert is able to make an important contribution, building on Swiss expertise and know-how, to the people of Cyprus," stressed Mr Cassis.

The CMP locates, exhumes and identifies both Greek and Turkish Cypriots who have been missing since the clashes of 1963–64 and the 1974 occupation. "People whose loved ones have never been found can never find peace. I would like to thank the CMP for its work to help the families and thereby society as a whole," said Mr Cassis after his visit to the buffer zone.

Switzerland is contributing more than CHF 6 million towards financing the UNFICYP on the island. Furthermore, from 2000 to 2004, Switzerland was a member of the UN delegation to the negotiations on possible solutions for the reunification of the island. In March 2004, a conference on Cyprus took place under the auspices of the UN at the Bürgenstock mountain resort near Lake Lucerne. Switzerland also hosted several rounds of negotiations in 2016 and 2017 aimed at finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. The talks were held on Mont-Pèlerin, in Geneva and in Crans-Montana.

Cyprus's important role at the external EU border

Mr Cassis and Mr Christodoulides also discussed the issue of migration. "Protecting the EU's external border is of great importance to Switzerland. That is why we must continue to work for a fair, crisis-proof European asylum system where every state fulfils its responsibilities," declared Mr Cassis after the meeting, during which he also discussed the current difficult situation on the island.

He thanked the Cypriot government for its efforts to improve  admission conditions and the asylum system as a whole. On two previous occasions, Switzerland seconded an expert to support the work of the European Asylum Support Office in Cyprus. He also noted that one of the objectives of Switzerland's international cooperation during the 2021–24 period, which is in the process of a public consultation until the end of August this year, is to combat the causes of migration.

Switzerland's institutional agreement with the EU

Mr Cassis also took the opportunity to discuss Switzerland's position with regard to the institutional agreement. He emphasised that the Federal Council is interested in concluding an agreement, but that some issues still need to be clarified.

The two ministers also discussed the importance of multilateral cooperation. Mr Cassis underlined the importance of International Geneva and invited Mr Christodoulides to visit Switzerland.

Further information:

Bilateral relations Switzerland–Cyprus

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs