The conflicts in the Middle East – particularly Syria – also affect Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. With almost 4 million refugees admitted, Turkey bears the brunt of the catastrophic situation in Syria. Large numbers of refugees are also arriving in Cyprus and the Greek islands. Switzerland provides support to all three countries in dealing with the challenges this poses.
As head of the FDFA, Mr Cassis will therefore assess the situation himself during this trip. Among other things, he will visit a refugee camp on Samos and discuss the refugee issue with his Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides, and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos of Greece. In particular, he will discuss the situation in the wider region with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Another topic covered during this trip is the Cyprus question, which has remained unresolved for decades. In Cyprus Mr Cassis will visit the buffer zone that separates the north and south of the island, where the UNFICYP (the United Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) is deployed. He will also meet with UN Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar and members of the joint humanitarian Committee on Missing Persons (CMP). The CMP locates, exhumes and identifies persons who have been reported missing since the 1963-64 clashes and the occupation in 1974.
Mr Cassis will also address the Cyprus question at his meetings in Nicosia, Athens and Ankara and discuss the topic of Switzerland's good offices.
Moreover, he will take this opportunity to explain Switzerland's position in relation to the European Union to his counterparts from EU member states Cyprus and Greece.
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