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Didier Burkhalter meets Sudanese foreign minister in Bern

On 16 May 2017 Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter received Ibrahim Ghandour, the Sudanese foreign minister, in Bern. It is the first time since 2005 that a meeting at ministerial level has taken place between the two countries. The meeting covered recent developments in Sudan, the country's role in the region and opportunities for dialogue and cooperation to enable progress in the areas of political reform, human rights promotion and compliance, the management of migration and the protection of migrants.

For years, Switzerland has been delivering humanitarian aid in Darfur and other areas of unrest. It was also active in the process leading up to the ceasefire (Nuba Mountains Ceasefire Agreement), which was negotiated and signed in Switzerland on 19 January 2002. This was the starting point for further negotiations leading to the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the government of the Republic of Sudan. Mr Burkhalter said that Switzerland intended to pursue this engagement within a strategy which focuses primarily on food security and the protection of migrants.

During the meeting Mr Burkhalter and Mr Ghandour covered a broad range of topics of bilateral interest. They discussed existing and future cooperation with Switzerland, including humanitarian aid, managing migration and protecting displaced persons, archaeology in collaboration with Swiss universities, and the state reforms needed to increase decentralisation. Mr Burkhalter discussed with his counterpart the need to make progress in these areas and on human rights, and raised the possibility of closer future cooperation at the multilateral level.

Regarding the migration situation, Sudan is an important country of origin, transit and destination for migrants from the Horn of Africa and beyond. It is part of international initiatives which Switzerland supports to fight human trafficking and ensure better protection for refugees in the region. The meeting also provided the opportunity to thank the government of Sudan for having opened an additional corridor to allow humanitarian access to people in South Sudan facing a serious food crisis, and to request access to those in need of humanitarian relief in the regions of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

The ministers ended their meeting with a discussion of the economic reforms under way in Sudan and the ongoing World Trade Organization accession process. There is scope to expand trade relations between the two countries given Sudan's rich natural resources and vast agricultural potential. Switzerland considers it important to have an expanded dialogue with Sudan now that a permanent lifting of the United States' sanctions on the country has become a possibility.

Distributed by APO on behalf of The Federal Council, Switzerland.