Federal Councillor Burkhalter stresses importance of freedom of expression in meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu

Press release, 23.03.2017

The head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, met with Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, on Thursday 23 March 2017 in Bern, continuing the frank and direct dialogue between the two countries. Their meeting at the Federal Palace took place on the sidelines of a visit by Mr Çavuşoğlu to the Turkish embassy. In the context of the upcoming referendum on the reform of the Turkish constitution Mr Burkhalter underscored the validity of Swiss law on Swiss soil, urged Turkey to comply with it, and said that Switzerland would rigorously investigate illegal intelligence activities. “Freedom of expression is a universal value recognised by Switzerland, which hopes that this freedom will also hold true for Turkish citizens whether they cast their votes in Switzerland or in their own country,” said Mr Burkhalter.

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Federal Councillor Burkhalter told his Turkish counterpart that he understands the difficult situation Turkey is facing after last summer’s attempted coup d’état. But he also expressed his concern about the large number of dismissals and arrests in Turkey, and underscored that the declaration of a state of emergency does not exempt Turkey from its international human rights obligations. The two ministers also discussed their countries’ positions on various issues, including a possible reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey, the duration and proportionality of the state of emergency, the independence of the judiciary, and cooperation with institutions such as the Council of Europe. Mr Burkhalter also reiterated Switzerland’s position on the situation in south-eastern Turkey and Switzerland’s willingness to offer its good offices.

During their meeting, Mr Burkhalter and Mr Çavuşoğlu also exchanged views on the upcoming referendum in Turkey. On 16 April, the citizens of Turkey will vote on a reform of their country’s constitution. In this context, Mr Burkhalter underscored the validity of Swiss law on Swiss soil, urged Turkey to comply with it, and said that Switzerland would rigorously investigate illegal intelligence activities. In addition, Mr Burkhalter stressed the importance of freedom of expression and the freedom to speak out for democracy in particular. Switzerland expects Turkey to respect its international commitments in this respect, said Mr Burkhalter.

Mr Burkhalter and Mr Çavuşoğlu also discussed regional and international issues, especially the situation in Syria. Mr Burkhalter expressed grave concern about the catastrophic situation in Syria six years after the outbreak of the war. Their discussion also focused on talks aimed at reaching a political solution to the Syrian conflict and on international humanitarian commitments.


Further information:

Bilateral relations Switzerland - Turkey


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