Official visit to the Middle East: Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis calls for the resumption of dialogue

Press release, 29.11.2020

During his official visit to the Middle East, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) met with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts Gabi Ashkenazi and Riyad al-Maliki. Discussions centred on the latest regional developments and Switzerland's peace policy, as well as the strengthening of cooperation in the area of innovation and the creation of jobs for young Palestinians. These subjects are among Switzerland's priorities in the region following the adoption of the first Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Strategy 2021–2024.

Mr Cassis reminded his counterparts of Switzerland's commitment to a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East, in accordance with international law and the internationally agreed parameters. "A return to diplomacy is a matter of urgency," he said, calling for direct negotiations on all final status issues to be resumed. Both parties commended Switzerland on its willingness to facilitate the resumption of a dialogue by providing its good offices. Finding a political solution in the Middle East is one of the priorities of the MENA strategy recently adopted by the Federal Council.

During discussions with Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi, Mr Cassis welcomed the recent normalisation agreements between Israel and several Arab states. He expressed his hope that these agreements would open up perspectives that would encourage all parties to ease regional tensions and work towards a just and lasting peace. Mr Cassis will also convey this message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he will speak tomorrow by telephone, and to his interlocutors in the United Arab Emirates, where he will travel tomorrow. Mr Cassis also emphasised Switzerland's desire to place innovation at the heart of its efforts. A concrete example of this is the recently launched broad-based programme “Wake up! Diplomacy towards a healthy future”, which aims to promote discussions with Israel, including on the dangers of climate change.

Switzerland supports innovation and development in the region
Mr Cassis also went to Ramallah, where he met with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki. He stressed to his interlocutors that Switzerland was committed to creating professional opportunities for young Palestinians in line with the new MENA Strategy 2021–2024. The field of innovation, where there is a dynamic Palestinian start-up scene, is a key entry point. Mr Cassis further announced that Switzerland's contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – as recently renewed by the Federal Council – should, in particular, help enhance professional integration of Palestinian refugees in the host countries, in accordance with the conclusions of the Nantermod report. During the inauguration of the Swiss–Palestinian Joint Business Council, he expressed his hope that this instrument would encourage Swiss economic and scientific operators to team up with their Palestinian counterparts.

Further information:

Foreign policy priorities for the Middle East and North Africa region

Speech by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis - Official meeting with the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabi Ashkenazi(pdf, 214kb)

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs