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Press release, 20.11.2021

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia between 19 and 20 November. In Riyadh he paid a working visit to the foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah bin Faisal Al Saud and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Aljubeir. The topics discussed included the stability and security of the region, Switzerland's protecting power mandate, economic cooperation, sustainable development and human rights.

As part of its Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Strategy 2021–24, Switzerland is committed to improving political stability and security throughout the region. In talks with his counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah bin Faisal Al Saud, and Minister of State Adel Aljubeir, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis expressed Switzerland's determination to contribute to regional dialogue and cooperation, including through its protecting power mandate. Since 2018, Switzerland has defended Saudi interests in Iran and Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia.

On the subject of Yemen, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) called on Saudi Arabia to continue supporting a ceasefire and the resumption of the peace process. He also stressed the importance of respect for international humanitarian law by all actors.

In line with the MENA Strategy, Switzerland wishes to strengthen existing cooperation on economic, social and technological development and on sustainability, including through joint projects in third countries, for example in the area of water management.

Economic cooperation and women's rights

Ignazio Cassis welcomed the economic and social reforms that Saudi Arabia has implemented so far under the framework of the Vision 2030 programme.

"The Saudi reforms hold great potential for Swiss companies and finance," Mr Cassis said. "But they also offer us the opportunity to conduct a constructive dialogue on the topic of human rights, including on issues such as the death penalty and freedom of expression, in line with the FDFA's Human Rights Guidelines 2021–24."

Saudi Arabia is in the process of implementing various reforms as part of its Vision 2030 programme. These include the expansion of development opportunities in culture and sport, and improving the status of women in daily life and the economy. In this context, Mr Cassis met with Saudi women from the fields of politics, sport and business to hear their views on the status of women in Saudi Arabia. He also attended a football game between two Saudi Arabian women's teams.

Saudi Arabia is an important partner for Switzerland because of its role in the global economy and in the Middle East. It is currently Switzerland's second-largest trading partner in the MENA region. The Confederation wishes to further reinforce its cooperation with the Kingdom. This was the focus of a discussion between Federal Councillor Cassis and representatives of the Swiss Business Network of Saudi Arabia.

At an informal meeting, the head of the FDFA also exchanged views with the former Saudi ambassador to Switzerland, His Royal Highness Prince Mansour bin Nasser Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The main topics of discussion were Saudi Arabia's reform programme as well as political developments in the region.

Tomorrow, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis will continue his trip to Libya for a short visit.

Further information:

MENA Strategy 2021–24
Guidelines on Human Rights 2021−24

Address for enquiries:

FDFA Communication
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel. Communication service: +41 58 462 31 53
Tel. Press service: +41 58 460 55 55
Twitter: @SwissMFA


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

Last update 28.01.2022

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FDFA Communication

Federal Palace West
3003 Bern

Phone (for journalists only):
+41 58 460 55 55

Phone (for all other requests):
+41 58 462 31 53