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Russia, Switzerland mark 200th anniversary of diplomatic relations

March 06, 2014, 5:37 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, March 06, /ITAR-TASS/. Russia and Switzerland on Thursday mark the 200th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. On this occasion, the two countries’ foreign ministers exchanged congratulatory messages, where they reiterated their commitment to further development of bilateral cooperation in various areas and further political contacts, including top-level contacts.

“The jubilee is a good occasion to look back at the path our countries have travelled, to recall the common historic past and try to analyze its lessons, to draw intermediate results of cooperation and outline plans for the future,” Dmitry Lyubinsky, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Third European Department, told Itar-Tass. “It is important that both we and our partners are looking at the future of the Russian-Swiss relations with optimism.”

On February 22 (March 6), 1814, Russian diplomat Count Ivan Antonovich Kapodistria presented his credentials as the Russian Ambassador to Switzerland. A year after that, the Vienna congress proclaimed the Russian Empire as one of the guarantee powers for permanent Swiss neutrality. Thus, Russia made its contribution to the structure of Switzerland's political system, thanks to which Switzerland avoided disastrous wars of the 19th and 20th centuries.

“I cannot say that everything was always smooth in our relations,” Lyubinsky went on. “The murder of Russian diplomat Vorovsky in Lausanne in 1923 and subsequent acquittal of the killer by the jury lead to the severance of diplomatic relations, which were resumed only in March 1946. Ever since, bilateral cooperation has only been growing and now we have reliable and promising partners in Switzerland in all areas of cooperation.”

Moscow is set for constructive cooperation with Bern over the period of the latter’s presidency in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2014. Strengthening of the OSCE’s role and enhancing its authority in international affairs meets the interests of both countries. Increased attention should be focused on problems stemming from transnational threats, on protection of the interests on national minorities, on counteracting extremism, and on OSCE reforms. It is important to exert more effort to promote the Helsinki Plus 40 process in order to draft a conceptual strategic document on principles of cooperation and security in Europe by the anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in 2015.

The Russian-Swiss relations have reached a qualitatively new level in the recent years. A milestone event in bilateral relations was the first-ever visit by the Russian president to Switzerland in September 2009. The visit gave an extra impetus to closer cooperation in all areas, including the sphere of high technologies and innovation. Close contacts are maintained by the foreign ministries of the two countries. In 2007, they signed a joint memorandum on closer cooperation. The documents provides for consultations on a wide range of international and bilateral issues. In 2013 alone, the two countries’ foreign ministers and top-ranking foreign ministry officials had more than 20 such rounds. Russian and Swiss foreign ministers have annual meetings, including on the sidelines of various international events. Russian-Swiss summit meetings have become a regular practice in the recent years.

By the way, the president of Switzerland attended the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Russia’s Sochi in February 2014. He visited the Swiss House in Sochi’s Olympic Park. Notably, a number of Swiss companies took part in the building of the Olympic infrastructure, designing motor and railway tunnels, sports facilities, including the Ice Palace and the Olympic Stadium, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies and which soon will welcome Paralympic Games.

A central place in the programme of jubilee events in 2014 is allocated to cross-seasons of culture. The programme of cultural exchanges features numerous exhibitions, festivals and concert tours.

“It is very important for us to ensure a maximum wide coverage, to give a possibility to Swiss citizens to learn more about Russia’s culture, about Russia in general - its traditions, habits and ways, about the real state of things in this country, about its position on key issues of the domestic and foreign policy,” the Russian diplomat noted. “It’s a pity that the image of Russia thought the prism of the Swiss mass media is far from being unbiased. Such large-scale events, as a jubilee year or the Sochi Olympic Games, in the preparations of which Switzerland took an active part, make it possible to correct the one-sided image of Russia Swiss citizens might still have.

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