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Swiss minister urges Saudi Arabia to back ceasefire in Yemen

A Yemeni woman in Sanaa counts her money. The economic crisis in Yemen has worsened since the war broke out in 2015. A sharp devaluation of the rial has led to a historic rise in the prices of basic goods. Keystone / Yahya Arhab

Switzerland’s foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis, has called on Saudi Arabia to support a ceasefire in Yemen and the resumption of the peace process. Cassis has just completed a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia.

This content was published on November 21, 2021 - 11:26

The Swiss minister travelled to Riyadh on November 19-20, where he met his counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah bin Faisal Al Saud and Abdel Aljubeir, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

The war in neighbouring Yemen, which has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, was among the various topics covered.

The Swiss foreign ministry saidExternal link in a statement that Cassis had stressed “the importance of respect for international humanitarian law by all actors”.

A US-backed Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-backed Houthis rebels. Years of United Nations efforts to get both sides to agree to a cease-fire and start peace negotiations have not succeeded. 

The Houthis have repeatedly launched cross border attacks on Saudi Arabia using drones and missiles since the coalition intervened in Yemen. On Saturday, the Houthi movement said it had fired 14 drones at several Saudi cities, including at Saudi Aramco facilities in Jeddah. The conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in military stalemate for years.

Saudi reforms: "great potential"

In its statementExternal link, the Swiss foreign ministry said Cassis had welcomed economic and social reforms in Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi reforms hold great potential for Swiss companies and finance,” the Swiss minister said. “But they also offer us the opportunity to conduct a constructive dialogue on the topic of human rights, including on issues such as the death penalty and freedom of expression.”

Cassis shared Switzerland's determination to contribute to regional dialogue and cooperation, including through its protecting power mandate.

Since 2018, Switzerland has been representing Saudi interests in Iran and Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia. 

In Riyadh, Cassis also met Saudi women active in politics, sport and business. He also attended a match between two Saudi Arabian women's football teams. The Swiss foreign minister will continue to Libya on Sunday for a short visit.

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