Swiss foreign minister concludes visit to North and West Africa

Swiss Foreign Minister visited a school in Sikasso in southern Mali. Switzerland supports educational programmes for children displaced in the region. FDFA

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has ended his week-long tour of North and West Africa with vists to Senegal and Gambia, where talks focused on economic development, climate change, human rights and water security.

This content was published on February 13, 2021 - 16:07

Following his visit to Algeria and Mali, the Swiss minister travelled to Senegal on February 11 for a two-day visit. In Dakar he met Senegalese President Macky Sall and Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall.

At the centre of discussions were the priorities of Switzerland's new Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy 2021–24, recently adopted by the Federal Council, and Swiss engagement in Senegal regarding vocational education and training and digitalisation, the foreign ministry said in a statementExternal link on Saturday.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to reduce environmental damage and also exchanged views on the Blue Peace initiative, which aims to prevent conflicts through optimal and equitable management of water resources. They also signed an agreement aimed at improving the efficiency and competitiveness of air transport services.

In Senegal, the Swiss minister visited Gorée Island, a place that symbolises the memory of the slave trade.

On Saturday, Cassis held talks in the Gambia with Vice-President Isatou Touray and Interior Minister Yankuba Sonko that centred on human rights and the Blue Peace Initiative. It was the first official visit by a Swiss foreign minister to the country.

The Swiss minister kicked off his week-long tour with a trip to Algeria, where he met Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad and Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum. The discussions in Algiers focused on migration, regional security and management of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as plans to boost economic relations.

In Mali, Cassis met Interim President Bah N'daw and his counterpart Zeyni Moulaye in Bamako to discuss the political transition, and regional peace and security issues.

The Swiss minister paid his respects to Beatrice Stöckli, the Swiss hostage killed by her captors in 2020. He planted a tree in her memory in the gardens of the Swiss cooperation office in Mali, observing a minute's silence. He has urged the Malian authorities to clarify the circumstances of her death and to secure the return of her body. The missionary from Basel who was working in Timbuktu, was reportedly killed by kidnappers of the Islamist terrorist organisation Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslim (JNIM) in September 2020.

During his visit to Mali, Cassis also visited the Swiss contingent of MINUSMA (the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali).

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