Delegation hails successful visit to Turkey

swissinfo, Switzerland
Sept 3 2004

A delegation of Swiss parliamentarians is winding up a visit to Turkey
following meetings with the country's leaders and opposition figures.

Peter Briner, the head of the group, told swissinfo that there was
nothing now to prevent foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey from
visiting Ankara.

Calmy-Rey and the foreign affairs committee delegation had been due
to make scheduled trips to Turkey last year, but these were called
off at short notice.

Turkey was angered when two Swiss cantonal parliaments officially
recognised as genocide the 1915 killings of hundreds of thousands
of Armenians in Turkey. The federal parliament followed suit last
December.

But Briner said that Turkey now had "no bad feelings" towards
Switzerland.

swissinfo: How successful has the visit been?

Peter Briner: I think it has been a very successful trip. Our objective
was to get acquainted with Turkey and to meet parliamentary colleagues
of the foreign policy committee, because if we want to understand
each other we first have to get to know each other.

We met with open doors and an extraordinary hospitality from our
Turkish friends.

swissinfo: You met Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül. What subjects
did you discuss with him?

P.B.: We discussed mutual cooperation. There is a lot of cooperation
in business, in culture and in technology. They [our Turkish partners]
stressed their wish to strengthen our business relationship.

On our side we had problems to be resolved too. It seems that Turkish
customs discriminate against Swiss imports due to European Union
certification, even though we have a free trade agreement with Turkey
and with the EU. We are discussing this problem at various levels
and I'm hopeful that it can be resolved.

swissinfo: Did you raise the issue of human rights?

P.B.: We did mention human rights. We also met a small delegation of
opposition leaders led by [Kurdish human rights activist] Leyla Zana.

She said she wants to see a stable Turkey living in peace, democracy
and justice. She therefore welcomes the focus on reform due to
[Turkey's application for] membership of the European Union.

She is encouraged, but of course she would like to speed things up.
She will fight with democratic means, we hope, because violence is
no way to reach goals. We stressed the fact that democracy can be
reached only through legal means.

swissinfo: A year ago you wanted to go to Turkey and weren't able to.
In the meantime relations between Bern and Ankara appear to have
improved. How would you describe them now?

P.B.: We have a very open, friendly relationship. We discussed the
disagreements which made us postpone our trip. We explained things
in Switzerland, and finally I think we did finish that discussion to
the satisfaction of both sides.

swissinfo: Do you think that your visit might pave the way for Swiss
Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey to visit Turkey finally?

P.B.: Yes, absolutely. Foreign Minister Gül said there were no
obstacles whatsoever to a visit by Calmy-Rey, and that the chiefs of
protocol would try to find a suitable date. There is no bad feeling
left whatsoever.

swissinfo-interview: Morven McLean