Proposed Visa deal to deepen SA-Swiss relations

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pretoria - A proposed Visa Agreement between South Africa and Switzerland is likely to deepen relations between the two countries.

South Africa has proposed to the Swiss authorities a draft agreement to reciprocally waiver visa requirements for diplomatic and official passports.

"This is intended precisely to encourage official visits to each other's countries as we build a bilateral relationship," International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said on Monday, following the 2nd South Africa/Switzerland Annual consultations.

The agreement is still to be signed between International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and her Swiss counterpart.

Swiss State Secretary Michael Ambuhl said his country sees South Africa as an important pillar of stability in the continent. "Switzerland sees South Africa as a strategic partner in different areas."

He said he looked forward to the signing of a Visa agreement that would underscore stronger mutual cooperation, which the two countries already share.

Ebrahim, who co-chaired the session with Ambuhl, said the meeting also reviewed the current state of bilateral political relations in different areas such as the Double Taxation Agreement and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

"We already cooperate in many areas and now after this meeting we have worked out how to intensify that joint cooperation, not just bilaterally but in terms of other countries," Ebrahim said following their meeting.

He added that South Africa would be working closely with the traditionally neutral European country as both countries sought to play extended roles in conflict and crisis resolution in third world countries.

The two countries also committed to staying constantly in touch to see how they can contribute to finding a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.

Ebrahim said there was also an "excellent" exchange of views around reform of the United Nations Security Council.

Ambuhl added that he looked forward to even stronger partnership within the framework of the free-trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association and the Southern African Customs Union.