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Swiss president optimistic on future arms control after Geneva summit

Swiss President Guy Parmelin (C-R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C-L) shake hands at a bilateral meeting next to Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis (R) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16, 2021. Keystone / Denis Balibouse / Pool

Swiss President Guy Parmelin says he is hopeful that the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva will serve as a “starting point” for new disarmament negotiations.

This content was published on June 16, 2021 - 21:12
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At a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday evening, Parmelin said he hoped that the summit would have “positive repercussions for the two countries concerned and for the whole world”.

In a joint statement issued following their Geneva summit on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed their commitment to arms control and risk reduction. Parmelin said the US-Russia statement was “a first positive signal”.

Putin and Biden held four-hours of talks in the Swiss city that were described as “constructive” and pragmatic. Biden told reporters that the two presidents had discussed in detail the “next steps our countries should take on arms control measures” to reduce the risk of war.

The US president said diplomats and military experts from both countries would meet for what he called a “strategic stability dialogue” to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures. The US and Russian presidents also agreed to hold cyber-security talks and return their respective ambassadors, while agreeing to differ on other issues.

Bilateral Swiss-Russia meeting

Following the summit between the two superpowers, Parmelin and Putin held bilateral talks behind closed doors together with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

During the meeting, Parmelin and Cassis called for a "peaceful" resolution to the situation in Ukraine. The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, where Russia has been mediating between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the Iranian nuclear issue, were also discussed.

Parmelin said Switzerland was willing to act as a mediator for any future US-Russia prisoner exchanges. Biden apparently raised the issue of US citizens jailed in Russia during the summit talks on Wednesday. He said that he believed some compromises could be found.

“We offered our good offices, that's part of our DNA,” Parmelin told journalists on Wednesday evening. “Regarding a specific mediation in the process initiated with the United States we did not discuss this point in detail but clearly Switzerland is available.”

During the Swiss-Russia talks, Putin reportedly raised concerns about sanctions against his country and the importance of cooperation on coronavirus vaccines.

The Swiss officials also reiterated the “great potential” for future economic exchange with Russia. About 200 Swiss companies are active in the Russian market.

“We have many possibilities for cooperation,” Putin said.

On Tuesday evening, Parmelin held bilateral talks with Biden where issues on the agenda included trade relations and Switzerland’s good offices role in Iran, where it represents US interests.

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