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President of the Swiss Council of States (Senate) Filippo Lombardi, HE the Speaker of the Advisory Council (Majlis al Shura) Mohamed bin Mubarak al-Kholaifi and Swiss Ambassador Martin Aeschbacher cut the cake to mark the opening of the new Swiss embassy in Doha.

By Salman Siddiqui/Staff Reporter

Switzerland is looking forward to co-operate with Qatar to seek a solution to the Palestine issue and find a way to push international humanitarian aid into Syria, president of the Swiss Council of States (Senate) Filippo Lombardi told the Gulf Times in an interview yesterday.
Speaking on the sidelines of a ceremony to mark the opening of the Swiss embassy in Doha, Lombardi said: “We look forward to co-operation in international peace conferences for all the Middle East. We are interested, for instance, for a solution to Palestine.
“And we’ve been talking once again about this Arab peace initiative, where Switzerland wanted to add some years ago, some additional initiatives, which is the Geneva initiatives and what can be done now together to go forward.”
At present, it is almost next to impossible to push the international humanitarian aid into Syria because of the explosive situation there.
“We are also very much present in the humanitarian level with the International Red Cross Committee in Syria. But it’s very difficult to enter Syria in the present condition. So we are looking at what can be done with Qatar’s support in order to improve the situation and allow the international humanitarian aid to come into Syria,” he said.
Switzerland is also interested in placing its bid in the Doha Metro project.
“There is a Swiss company which is now taking part in the bid for the Metro. We have great experiences with tunnels; I gave HH the Emir a stone this morning, which came from the heart of Switzerland, where we are boring a 57km-long tunnel for railway that will be opening in three years time where trains will be travelling 230km/hr.”
About Qatari investments in Switzerland, he said: “The important investments of Qatar in Switzerland have been in the hotel and tourism business.”
He added that there is co-operation in other sectors such as defence as well. A Swiss company already has a deal to sell trainer aircraft to Qatar.
According to the embassy, Swiss exports to Qatar in 2012 were valued at 587.9mn Swiss francs (or $621mn) and Qatari exports to Switzerland in 2012 were 228.6mn Swiss francs (or $241.6mn).
Explaining the reason for the need to open an embassy at this point in time in Qatar, he said that today there were more people travelling to Switzerland from Qatar than ever before. Many are going to Switzerland to study, while Qatari enterprises are also investing there.
Swiss Ambassador Martin Aeschbacher agreed that more than the Swiss nationals, it is the non-Swiss who will benefit the most. “The main advantage of the opening of the embassy would be for the non-Swiss nationals who want to visit Switzerland. Once we open the visa section in May, people will no longer have to go Kuwait for the visas and they will be able to do it from here.”
The embassy will start processing visas on May 12. Opening hours for consular affairs will be between 9am and 11am.
The number of Swiss citizens in Qatar is 210.
Earlier, at the ribbon cutting ceremony, Lombardi said in his speech that although Switzerland and Qatar are very far from each other geographically and also have different weather conditions, there are many aspects common to both countries. “They both are small countries, but both are peaceful and doing well at the economic level, who are developing and who are trying to make use of their neutrality in order to help others, to promote dialogue with other countries,” he said.
HE the Speaker of the Advisory Council (Majlis al Shura) Mohamed bin Mubarak al-Kholaifi was also present on the occasion. A song by schoolchildren was also present after the Swiss national anthem was played for the first time at the embassy.
Many Swiss nationals living in Doha were also present at the event. Catrine Sutter said she was overjoyed with having her country’s embassy in Doha, which would also help her and other Swiss nationals in renewing their passports.
The new embassy is located at Villa # 60, Wadi al Hamra Street 87, Area 66, Al Dafna area.

Gulf-time 3.4.2013