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29.10.2012 - Press release
The President of the Confederation and the Head of the FDFA to travel to Asia

The President of the Confederation, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, and the Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Didier Burkhalter, will travel to Southeast Asia for several days at the beginning of November. In Laos, they will represent Switzerland at the Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM), where Switzerland will be received as a new member. Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter will also travel to Myanmar, where he will inaugurate the new Swiss Embassy. In Indonesia, he will attend the 5th Bali Democracy Forum, and in Thailand, he will open a regional conference of Swiss ambassadors, in Bangkok.

The President of the Confederation will travel to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, from 4 - 6 November 2012 to participate in the Asia-Europe Meeting, which will be attended by the majority of Heads of State and of Government from Asia and Europe. It will be the first official participation by Switzerland which will be officially received as a new member. Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter will also take part in the Meeting.

Before travelling to Laos, Mr Burkhalter will pay an official visit to Myanmar from 1 - 4 November 2012. It will be the first official visit by a Swiss federal councillor to this country. On this occasion, Mr Burkhalter will take part in the official opening ceremony of the Embassy of Switzerland to Myanmar, in Yangon. The Head of the FDFA will also hold talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, U Wunna Maung Lwin. A courtesy visit to President U Thein Sein and a meeting with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, are planned. Aung San Suu Kyi came to Switzerland on an official visit in June this year.

At the conclusion of the ASEM Summit, Mr Burkhalter will travel to Indonesia from 7 - 9 November to take part in the 5th Bali Democracy Forum. In the margin of this important multilateral meeting he will have an official meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa. This visit will be an opportunity to mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Indonesia, a dynamic economic power, member of the G20, and the fourth most populous country in the world.

On the last leg of his tour of the region, the Head of the FDFA will travel to Thailand from 9 - 10 November 2012 where he will open a regional ambassadors conference in Bangkok, in which all representatives of Switzerland in the Asia Pacific Region will take part including ambassadors, consuls-general, heads of SDC cooperation offices and heads of Swissnex, as well as defence attachés.

This tour of Southeast Asia underlines the importance that Switzerland attaches to strengthening its political relations with the Asia-Pacific region, which is currently the most dynamic in the world and where Switzerland is regarded as a reliable and effective partner. It provides concrete expression to one of the strategic axes of Swiss foreign policy which is to diversify and deepen relations with the new emergency powers.

This itinerary illustrates and consolidates the three pillars of Swiss policy in the Asia-Pacific region: the universal strengthening of bilateral relations; active participation in the regional forums; and a responsible commitment to development and human security in a spirit of solidarity with the countries of the region.

Switzerland’s accession to ASEM, with the joint attendance of the President of the Confederation and the Head of the FDFA at the Summit in Laos, and Switzerland’s presence at the Bali Democracy Forum demonstrate Switzerland’s wish to make active use of the multilateral platforms in Asian countries, whose influence on global governance is becoming increasingly strong.

The bilateral meetings planned in particular with the Foreign Ministers of Myanmar, Laos and Indonesia will enable Switzerland to strengthen its political relations with these countries. In Myanmar, Mr Burkhalter will discuss issues of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the United Nations resolutions concerning Myanmar, bilateral trade, and the development-cooperation, peace-promotion and human-rights programmes that Switzerland is supporting. In this context, he will express Switzerland’s concern about the recent new outbreak of intercommunal violence in Rakhine.

Further information:

Jean-Marc Crevoisier
Head of FDFA Information
+41 (0)79 763 84 10

Brigitte Hauser-Suess
Head of FDF Information
+41 (0)79 292 08 77

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