Switzerland’s President Ueli Maruer held talks with Kazakh President, as part of a trip to the region that has raised eyebrows in some quarters.

Discussions with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and the Prime Minister Askar Mamin, focused on further deepening of bilateral relations and cooperation at an international level, according to a Swiss Finance Ministry Statement.

The talks in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan followed on from a visit to Russia where Maurer met Russian President Valdimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday.

President Maurer, who holds the rotating presidency, was accompanied to Kazakhstan by a delegation of Swiss business representatives. More than 40 Swiss companies already operate in the country, some of which have been there for over 20 years, and Switzerland is the third-largest investor in Kazakhstan, the Swiss statement said.

President Maurer also “commended Kazakhstan as an important partner for Switzerland in Central Asia and as an anchor of stability in the region”, it added.

Belt & Road

Talks were held in particular on the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), seen as a bridge between China, and Asia, Europe and beyond, which should offer both Switzerland and Kazakhstan the opportunity to engage in major infrastructure and investment projects, the statement said.

In the spring of this year, Switzerland and China signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing which should facilitate cooperation between Switzerland, China and third countries on the BRI.

Putin visit

On Thursday, Maurer held talks with Putin in the Russian capital Moscow, focusing on economic issues and Switzerland’s role as an intermediary between Russia and Georgia. The leaders also agreed on closer cooperation, a Swiss statement said.

Not everyone in Switzerland was happy about the Russia trip, which follows on from several other visits, most controversially to Saudi Arabia in October in the wake of the Khashoggi affair, which have been dubbed an ‘autocrat world tour’.

Critics argue official visits to places like China, Saudi Arabia and Russia send the wrong message, others reckon speaking to everyone is part of Swiss foreign policy and certainly doesn’t mean that Switzerland agrees with everyone.