From 2010 to 2019, the Swiss diplomatic representation in Belarus consisted of a representation office. To enable Switzerland to deepen its cooperation with Belarus and to better represent its interests, including in the areas of human rights and peace promotion, the Federal Council decided on 15 May 2019 to upgrade the existing office in Minsk to an embassy. Prior to the official opening ceremony at the embassy, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis will meet President Alexander Lukashenko and Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei. Discussions will focus on bilateral relations, including cooperation in the field of human rights, and the situation in the region.
Switzerland, like the EU, lifted most of its sanctions against Belarus in 2016. Since then, bilateral relations between the two countries have gained momentum. In recent years, Switzerland has expanded its dialogue with Belarus on political matters, the economy, security, migration and human rights. Belarus' commitment to stability in the region is a key factor in this development of relations: Minsk is providing a platform for the negotiations of the Trilateral Contact Group, which is working towards the implementation of the Minsk peace accords and thus towards a peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has been going on for six years.
Bilateral relations between the two countries are also maintained at parliamentary level. A friendship group has existed between members of parliament from Switzerland and Belarus since 2017, and a delegation from this group will accompany Mr Cassis on the trip, comprising National Council Vice President Andreas Aebi (co-chair of the group) and fellow co-chairs Margret Kiener-Nellen, former member of the National Council, and Filippo Lombardi, former member of the Council of States.
With the newly opened embassy in Minsk, the Swiss external network now includes 103 embassies. The political and economic map of the world is constantly shifting. The FDFA therefore optimises its external network on an ongoing basis, in accordance with the needs and interests of the Swiss population. The opening of the Swiss embassy in Minsk is a further step in Switzerland's efforts to implement its foreign policy where it can have an impact. Since the former representation office is simply being upgraded, the opening of the embassy will have no financial or personnel consequences.
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