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For the first time in two decades, a US secretary of state has visited Switzerland for bilateral talks

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Press release, 02.06.2019

For the first time in two decades, a US secretary of state has visited Switzerland for bilateral talks. On Sunday 2 June 2019, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), received his counterpart Michael Pompeo in Castelgrande in Bellinzona for an official working visit.

Federal Councillor Cassis and US Secretary of State Pompeo shake hands. The flags of Switzerland and the United States can be seen in the background.
For the first time in two decades, a US secretary of state has visited Switzerland for bilateral talks. © Keystone

Mr Cassis and Mr Pompeo underlined the good bilateral relations between their countries. “I am delighted that Mike Pompeo accepted the invitation I extended to him in February and has now spent three days in Switzerland during his trip to Europe,” said Mr Cassis after the visit.

Discussions centred on Switzerland’s good offices. Mr Cassis spoke with Mr Pompeo about Iran, where Switzerland has represented US interests for almost 40 years, noting that the humanitarian mechanism would allow payment for the delivery of food and medicines that are not subject to sanctions. “We want to help ensure that the civilian population, which is suffering under the new sanctions regime, is supplied with basic necessities,” said Mr Cassis.

The two men also discussed the escalating situation in Venezuela. In March of this year, Mr Cassis and the US ambassador to Switzerland, Edward McMullen, signed an agreement providing for a Swiss protecting power mandate for the United States in Venezuela. The protecting power mandate still has to be approved by the Venezuelan government to be implemented.

The geopolitical situation – in particular relations with Russia and China – was another item on the agenda. Mr Cassis said he was concerned about the tensions between the United States and both countries.

Mr Cassis and Mr Pompeo also discussed the possibility of a free trade agreement, reiterating their fundamental interest in pursuing the matter further. “It is clear to both sides that both countries must benefit from an agreement,” underlined Mr Cassis. The United States is Switzerland’s second most important trading partner and Switzerland is one of the United States’ 15 largest trading partners. The trade volume between the two countries amounts to about CHF 120 billion a year.

With regard to multilateral cooperation, Mr Cassis emphasised Switzerland’s support for the UN reforms initiated by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, explaining that “Switzerland wants a more effective and efficient UN.” He also briefed Mr Pompeo on the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator foundation.

Following a visit by Mr Cassis to Washington in February, this was the second time he met with Mr Pompeo this year. In November 2018, Mr Cassis also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, and is scheduled to meet with him again during a visit to Moscow this summer.

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