In view of the current situation in the Gulf, Ms Baeriswyl has had official contact with representatives of several countries in recent weeks to assure them of Switzerland's willingness to help defuse existing tensions. Ms Baeriswyl's visit to Saudi Arabia follows a meeting with her Iranian counterpart in Bern on 13 June and a working visit to Muscat from 1 to 2 July. She will also meet her Kuwaiti counterpart in Switzerland on 25 July.
The consultations took place in Jeddah and were conducted on the Saudi side by Foreign Minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf. Consultations have been conducted at regular intervals since the signing of a declaration of intent to this effect in 2012. The purpose of the consultations was to undertake a broad-based review of bilateral and consular affairs and discuss regional issues. Both countries emphasised their commitment to strengthening trade ties and exchanges in relation to science, business, the financial sector and education. In terms of human rights, Switzerland outlined its foreign policy priorities, including its opposition to the use of the death penalty and the need to uphold freedom of expression and promote women's rights. Efforts will be made to step up development cooperation, including working with the Gulf States on an initiative to improve management of water resources.
Ms Baeriswyl also referred to the legal decision taken by Switzerland with regard to the activities of Pilatus Aircraft in Saudi Arabia. Ms Baeriswyl was accompanied on her trip to Saudi Arabia by representatives of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF) and development and human rights experts. A further meeting is planned to facilitate dialogue on financial matters.
During her trip, Ms Baeriswyl took the opportunity to visit the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), which cooperates closely with EPFL and CERN and plays host to a number of Swiss researchers and professors. She also met Swiss business representatives and women leaders from civil society. Lastly, the delegation visited the vocational training centre of the Swiss company Schindler.
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