Switzerland recognised the state of Israel in 1949. Seventy years on, Switzerland and Israel enjoy good and wide-ranging relations. As he received his guest, Mr Cassis noted that "more than 20,000 Swiss nationals live in Israel, representing the largest Swiss community in the Middle East." He also expressed his satisfaction at the increase in exchanges on innovation and hi-tech between Switzerland and Israel in recent years.
At their meeting, Mr Cassis and Mr Katz emphasised the close cooperation on 'science and diplomacy' between the two countries, including the Transnational Red Sea Research Center project now under way, which aims to protect coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba.
Having restated Switzerland's position on the Middle East conflict, Mr Cassis called on all parties to de-escalate tensions following the violent clashes at the border between Israel and Lebanon.
Mr Cassis added that he regretted the Israeli government's unilateral decision not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) beyond 31 January 2019. He also expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Mr Cassis stressed that Switzerland was keen to explore new avenues, such as job creation schemes for young Palestinians, to complement its traditional areas of engagement in the Middle East.
The official meeting between Mr Cassis and Mr Katz was followed by a concert with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, at the Culture and Congress Centre in Lucerne, attended by many invited guests.
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