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Calmy-Rey hails Swiss-Russian relations

Foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey met her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for talks Keystone

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has been meeting her Russian counterpart in Moscow for talks on strengthening ties between the two countries.

This content was published on November 26, 2004 - 20:27

Speaking after the meeting, Calmy-Rey said relations were “excellent” and that tensions over the Überlingen air crash, in which 71 mainly Russian passengers died, had been resolved.

Calmy-Rey, who was on her first official visit to Moscow since taking office, said on Friday that there was a “great potential” for intensifying the relationship between Switzerland and Russia.

For his part, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that there had been a “good development in political dialogue”.

Calmy-Rey said that the two sides had resolved their differences over the 2002 Überlingen plane crash, in which a Russian passenger plane and a cargo jet collided in Swiss-controlled airspace, killing all on board.

Compensation to the victims’ relatives was paid out in July. However, there were criticisms from Russia that the move had taken too long.

Calmy-Rey said she had thanked the Russian and Bashkirian governments for their collaboration in the affair and apart from this, there had been no other discussions on the subject.

Strengthening relations

She said that talks had mainly focused on how to strengthen relations, especially in the economic sector.

“The economic exchange is growing, around 150 Swiss firms are already in Russia,” said Calmy-Rey. “The full potential has not yet been tapped.”

Economics minister Joseph Deiss is therefore planning to visit Russia next year, she said.

Lavrov said the meeting had also focussed on judicial and police cooperation, especially as the two countries faced the common problems of money laundering, funds of criminal origin and terrorism.

But he said that the Yukos affair had not been discussed.

Relations between the countries were clouded earlier this year after Switzerland froze SFr6.2 billion ($5.3 billion) in Yukos assets held in Swiss banks in March, but had to release them three months later, at the request of the Russian authorities.

Chechnya

Calmy-Rey said that part of the talks had focused on Chechnya and said she hoped that the conflict between Russia and Chechnya could be resolved by peaceful dialogue.

But she added that she had not offered Switzerland as a mediation partner.

Two agreements on chemical weapons disarmament, which are being financed by Switzerland, were also signed during the visit.

The Swiss are providing SFr15 million to help Russia destroy its stock, amid fears of environmental contamination.

Russia is estimated to store almost two thirds of the global stockpile of chemical weapons.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swiss trip to Russia was aimed at strengthening relations and cooperation between the two countries.

Micheline Calmy-Rey described relations between Switzerland and Russia as excellent.

Tensions over the Überlingen air crash in 2002 had been resolved said Calmy-Rey.

Two accords on chemical weapons disarmament were also signed.

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