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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Turkey

Relations between Switzerland and the Republic of Turkey are close and diverse, and are characterised by regular high-level political dialogue as well as extensive economic and trade ties.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

Relations between Switzerland and Turkey have become significantly closer, and high-level visits have increased:
the first visit to Turkey by a president of the Confederation (former Federal Councillor Pascal Couchepin) took place in 2008. Abdullah Gül visited Switzerland in 2010, the first president of the Republic of Turkey to do so. Since then further ministerial visits have taken place every year.

The two countries also hold annual political consultations at state-secretary level, consular consultations (since 2009) and consultations on counter-terrorism. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) on police cooperation that was signed in 2012 should make it possible to forge closer ties in this area. An MOU was also signed in 2009 on cooperation in the energy sector.

Economic cooperation

The investment protection agreement of 3 March 1988 and the agreement on the avoidance of double taxation, which came into force on 1 January 2013, constitute instruments for orderly economic relations between the two countries.

In 2012, the trading volume between the two countries amounted to approximately CHF 3 billion. The volume of Swiss investment in Turkey totals CHF 2.8 billion and has created over 20,000 jobs, making Switzerland the 14th largest international investor in Turkey.

Turkey is a major tourist destination. Some 320,000 Swiss tourists visit Turkey every year.

Cooperation in the field of education

As part of the Seventh Framework Programme for European Research, with which both Switzerland and Turkey are associated, 181 Swiss teams are cooperating with Turkish partners on a total of 124 projects (primarily in food, biotechnology, environment and ICT). The Swiss National Science Foundation also plays a role in this regard with various financing tools that enable Swiss researchers to collaborate with Turkish partners.

In addition, two excellence scholarships are awarded annually by each country to postgraduate students. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) visited Turkey in June 2012 in order to identify common interests and assess opportunities to increase scientific bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Development cooperation and humanitarian aid

Switzerland supports the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is working with the Turkish authorities to care for refugees from Syria. Because of the continued influx of refugees, this support has been expanded to include further contributions at multilateral level and the secondment of experts. Switzerland also provided emergency financial aid following the Van earthquake on 23 October 2011.

The SDC programme in Turkey was completed at the end of 2006. The SDC supported various NGOs with the aim of reducing poverty and strengthening civil society and women's rights.

In the aftermath of the 1999 earthquake in İzmit, SDC Humanitarian Aid operated an office in İzmit and Istanbul and implemented a neighbourhood disaster support programme to train and equip neighbourhood teams with basic first aid equipment. The project is being continued by a Turkish foundation with the financial support of the SDC.

Swiss nationals in Turkey

As of April 2013, there were 3,255 Swiss nationals registered in Turkey, most of whom (80%) are dual citizens.

History of bilateral relations

The Ottoman Empire's first representation (a legation) in Bern was opened in 1899. The first official contacts between Switzerland and the Republic of Turkey took place in 1923 on the margins of the Lausanne Peace Conference. The first Turkish representative presented his diplomatic credentials in 1925.

That year, Switzerland and Turkey concluded a treaty of friendship. Diplomatic relations were established in 1928, when Switzerland opened a legation in Istanbul. This diplomatic representation was transferred to Ankara in 1937 and was upgraded to an embassy in 1957.

In 1926, Turkey adopted the Swiss Civil Code and Code of Obligations almost verbatim. Moreover, two treaties of paramount importance for Turkey were signed in Switzerland: the Lausanne Peace Treaty, which is considered to mark the birth of modern Turkey, and the Montreux Convention (1936), which granted Turkey full sovereignty over the Dardanelles Strait and the Bosphorus.

This helped create a special relationship between the two countries. In 2008, Switzerland gave Turkey the desk on which the Treaty of Lausanne was signed.