Official working visit by the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Saeed Jalili, to the State Secretary, Michael Ambühl

Berne, 24.02.2006 - Today, the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Michael Ambühl, received the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Saeed Jalili, for a working visit to Bern. This meeting take place within the framework of the regular meetings between Switzerland and Iran. In the current political climate, Switzerland attaches special importance to the continuation of the dialogue between the two countries.

The Islamic Republic of Iran and Switzerland share a very wide range of interests including those of a human, economic and cultural nature. On several occasions, Switzerland has provided humanitarian aid to Iran both in connection with disasters (earthquakes) and with refugees.

Today's talks between the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Saeed Jalili, and the State Secretary, Michael Ambühl, focussed on the nuclear issue,  human rights questions, cultural understanding, as well as on regional issues.

The State Secretary Michael Ambühl has recalled that Switzerland is committed to the non-proliferation and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, but that it acknowledges the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy in compliance with international agreements. In the current discussions concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, Switzerland endorses the demand of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Iran to halt all uranium enrichment and other sensitive activities as a provisional confidence-building measure. Michael Ambühl stressed that the issue should be resolved by diplomatic means.

On the question of the Middle East conflict, the State Secretary mentioned Switzerland’s contribution to the efforts to find a just and lasting negotiated solution, saying that the aim must be to take into account the fundamental interests of all parties while respecting the provisions of humanitarian law. Both Israel’s right to exist within secure borders and the right of the Palestinian people to their own state must be ensured.

On the subject of human rights, the State Secretary and the Deputy Foreign Minister agreed that the dialogue between the two countries which was launched in October 2003 should be continued. Switzerland regards the dialogue as an opportunity to conduct open and constructive discussions on human rights issues, to propose improvements to the current situation, and to talk about specific problems. The next round of the dialogue is scheduled to take place in Tehran this year. The agenda will include the launching of projects on the issues of domestic violence and reforms to criminal law.

Both countries declared their commitment to mutual respect in cultural matters. The State Secretary recalled that the freedom of religion and expression are fundamental rights of the Swiss Confederation.  At the same time, he stressed that mutual respect was a condition of understanding between different cultures. He strongly condemned the violent reaction in connection with the recent cartoons controversy.

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