Tue 01-12-2020 19:04 PM
By Binsal Abdulkader
ABU DHABI, 1st December 2020 (WAM) -- Switzerland and the UAE believe in strong multilateral system, which is the need of the hour to address the global challenges such as COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, according to the Swiss foreign minister.
"The fact that Switzerland and the UAE are currently running for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council shows that we both believe in a strong multilateral system," Ignazio Cassis, Head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, told Emirates News Agency, WAM.
"If we are elected, we will spend one year together on the Security Council in 2023. So, I see very concrete opportunities to cooperate more on issues of peace and security in the Middle East and the entire world," he added in an exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
As WAM reported, the United Arab Emirates officially launched its campaign on 29th September to secure an elected non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the term 2022-2023.
The announcement was made during the UAE’s statement at the General Debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, delivered by H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Digital foreign policy, GCC’s strategic importance
The Swiss minister continued to say that the Swiss government has recently adopted its first digital foreign policy. "We want to use our bridge builder role to advance international cooperation also in the digital space. Switzerland and the UAE are important donors and we want to explore opportunities for further collaboration in this area."
Currently, almost 3400 Swiss citizens are living in the UAE, Cassis revealed. "Many of them have been attracted by economic opportunities, others are active in academia and elsewhere. People-to-people ties greatly contribute to the relations between states."
On his two-day official visit to Abu Dhabi on Monday and Tuesday, the top Swiss diplomat met with H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and reviewed the prospects of fostering the cooperation and friendship between the two nations in various fields.
The Swiss official noted that trade and "other reasons" make the Gulf Cooperation Council states strategically important to Switzerland.
"The GCC states are Switzerland’s most important trade partners. For this and other reasons, we have a strategic interest in advancing security and stability in the Middle East, and our relations with GCC countries and other states in the region are central to that," said Cassis, 59, who took up the top Swiss diplomat’s job in 2017.
Abraham Accords to create job opportunities
Talking about Abraham Accords between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, he said, "We hope that the normalisation between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain will encourage all parties to reduce regional tensions and to work towards a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
"We also hope that this normalisation will benefit youth in those countries, by providing them with new job opportunities through cooperation in areas such as economy and science.
"For Switzerland, dialogue and the search for commonly acceptable solutions is part of its political DNA and we support every effort in this direction."
Swiss’ MENA policy
Explaining the Swiss government’s Middle East and North Africa, MENA, strategy adopted in October 2020, the top-level official said, "A cornerstone of our foreign policy is that we speak to everyone and build trustful relations with all states."
He added, "Our good offices are well known, which is illustrated by the different protective power mandates that we hold, such as between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Recently, we have provided logistical support to talks between the Yemeni government and Ansar Allah [Houthis], which ended with an exchange of more than 1000 prisoners.
"So, what we can offer is good access to all actors, discretion, as well as long-standing experience and expertise in mediation and peace promotion. The countries in the region should be open towards entering into a transparent and constructive dialogue with each other."
Global impact of coronavirus
Asked about the changes brought by COVID-19 and the need for more international cooperation to tackle such crises, Cassis, who is also a specialised medical doctor by profession, said, "The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated once more that our interconnected world needs to cooperate to tackle common challenges."
"There are long term issues that need global attention and common approaches, in particular the ongoing climate change. I sincerely hope that this crisis will encourage everyone to engage more. Switzerland is ready to play its part," he affirmed.
"Switzerland has always underlined the need for a strong and effective multilateral system."
"Foreign policy is domestic policy"
Asked whether existing establishments have to go through an overhaul and reconsider their priorities to regain the common person’s confidence as they failed to prevent the crisis unleashed by COVID-19, Cassis said, "To keep the common person’s confidence in governmental decisions and international cooperation particularly, it is essential to communicate about what we are doing in a way that can be understood by each and every one."
When he was elected as Federal Councillor and foreign minister, he informed his diplomatic staff of his guiding principle, "Foreign policy is domestic policy."
"Every day, we try to explain to the parliament and the citizens how our cooperation with other states can concretely improve their lives. Our new MENA strategy will be an important instrument to reach this objective," he said.
WAM/ Ibrahim Shukralla