Ignazio Cassis holds political talks in Egypt on bilateral cooperation, regional issues and migration

Bern, 25.03.2019 - On a working visit to Cairo, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry. The talks focused on Switzerland's relations with Egypt, an important partner country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Mr Cassis, head of the FDFA, had started his working visit on Sunday with an event marking 110 years of bilateral trade relations, where he met with Egypt's Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr and toured a Swiss-supported project in migration.

Five millennia ago Egypt was already known as one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world – a subject that has long fascinated researchers everywhere, including Switzerland. With a population of almost 100 million, Egypt continues to play a leading role today and serves as a bridge in the MENA region.

Egypt has one of the most diversified economies in Africa and is Switzerland's fourth most important trading partner and biggest export market on the African continent. Bilateral trade in 2017 was worth around CHF 1.2 billion. There are approximately 100 Swiss companies operating in Egypt, employing over 10,000 people. Switzerland first opened a trade representation in Egypt in 1909. Yesterday the Swiss embassy hosted an event to mark the anniversary of that opening. "110 years are a testament to the proximity of our two countries and economies," said Mr Cassis in his speech. "Egypt has always been the gateway to African and Asian markets, and remains a crucial partner for Switzerland for the stability in the region." In the margins of the event, Mr Cassis also met with Egypt's Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr.

Mr Cassis spoke with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry about various aspects of bilateral relations, in particular peace support, business, research and cultural cooperation (e.g. in archaeology and cultural heritage). Another focal point of the talks was the implementation of Switzerland's strategy in Egypt. In this regard, Mr Cassis stressed the importance of freedom of opinion and assembly. He also assured Egypt of Switzerland's support in the areas of migration and vocational education and training for job creation. In addition, Mr Cassis thanked his interlocutors for the excellent legal cooperation between the FDFA and the Egyptian authorities in regard to consular assistance cases, enabling a number of Swiss children to be returned to their mothers.

Regarding the situation in the MENA region, various possibilities were discussed in regard to joint engagement for peace and stability during Egypt's current presidency of the African Union. The foreign ministers signed a memorandum of understanding on intensifying cooperation between the two countries during this presidency, particularly in regard to peace support.

The focus on Sunday was on international cooperation. Through its economic and development cooperation in Egypt, Switzerland is also helping to improve living conditions for the local population. To learn more about the migration situation within Egypt, Mr Cassis yesterday visited St Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS) – a project that is helping to improve the circumstances of migrants in the country.

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