In the context of regular political contacts between Switzerland and Lebanon, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis and Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil met today in Bern to discuss topics of bilateral and regional interest. The head of the FDFA highlighted the traditionally close bilateral relations between the two countries, both of whose societies are shaped by different cultures and religions living side by side. The ministers agreed to launch expert-level talks on this subject.
Trade between Switzerland and Lebanon amounted to approximately CHF 800 million in 2017. The two foreign ministers discussed the potential to expand trade relations, e.g. through the private sector creating a Swiss-Lebanese chamber of commerce in Switzerland.
Mr Cassis and Mr Bassil also discussed international issues including the situation in the Middle East and the question of migration as well as the role of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Over 1.5 million Syrian refugees and some 200,000 Palestinian refugees currently live in Lebanon, which has a population of just over 4 million. The large number of refugees poses major problems for Lebanese society. Switzerland is supporting Lebanon in a number of areas such as water management in the Bekaa Valley and the renovation of 52 schools, which benefits 15,000 pupils. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has allocated approx. CHF 60 million in funding for Lebanon for the 2015–18 period. Furthermore, Switzerland and Lebanon have been conducting a migration dialogue since May 2018.
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