In October 2020, the Federal Council adopted its first strategy for the Middle East and North Africa, the MENA Strategy 2021–24, highlighting the region's importance for Switzerland. This trip to the Middle East and the UAE is an opportunity for Mr Cassis to take a step towards the implementation of the strategy and discuss cooperation in the next four years. With this new strategy, Switzerland aims to better coordinate its various diplomatic, political, economic and development policy instruments.
Mr Cassis will meet with Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi in Jerusalem on 29 November 2020. That same day he will travel on to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad Al-Malki. In the evening Mr Cassis will inaugurate the newly founded Swiss-Palestinian Joint Business Council.
On 30 November, Mr Cassis will travel on to Abu Dhabi, where he will meet with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates.
Support for dialogue in the Middle East region
Switzerland has long promoted dialogue and cooperation between states in the Near and Middle East. This is one of the priorities of the MENA Strategy 2021-24, which also includes support for a political solution to the Middle East conflict. The recent agreements between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain have changed the dynamic in the region.
Mr Cassis will hold discussions with various partners on how Switzerland can contribute to constructive solutions for sustainable peace and security in the region.
Cooperation on innovation, digitalisation and sustainability
A further priority of the MENA strategy involves cooperation with MENA countries on innovation, digitalisation and sustainable development. Israel and the UAE are trailblazers in these areas. In Israel, Mr Cassis will meet with representatives of Israeli start-ups in the fields of new technologies, health and the environment. His talks in the occupied Palestinian territory will focus on prospects for young people in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation. In Abu Dhabi, Mr Cassis will meet with the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which Switzerland joined in 2011. Israel and the UAE are among Switzerland's most important trading partners in the Middle East and North Africa region.
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