Russia's Medvedev makes historic state visit to Switzerland

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to discuss the economic crisis and Switzerland's role as a mediator with Georgia when he meets his Swiss counterpart during the first state visit by a Russian president to the Swiss Confederation.


AFP - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has arrived in Zurich on the first state visit of a Russian president to Switzerland, a member of the Russian delegation said Monday.

Accompanied by his wife Svetlana Medvedev, the Russian leader was met by Hans-Rudolf Merz, the Swiss president and finance minister, as well as Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey at Zurich Kloten airport.

During his visit, Medvedev is expected to discuss the economic crisis, bilateral issues and the reform of the G20 with his Swiss counterpart.

The two heads of state are also expected to broach topics surrounding "security policies in Europe in reference to Switzerland's mandate as a mediator between Russia and Georgia," a Swiss government spokeswoman had said.

Bern has been representing the interests of the two countries in their respective capitals.

Economic issues are also expected to feature in Medvedev's programme, with   a meeting scheduled Monday afternoon with Swiss and Russian businesses.

Merz had earlier highlighted the growing economic importance of Russia to Switzerland in an interview with Swiss newspaper Le Temps, noting that some 600 Swiss companies have interests in the Russian market.

Russian imports stand at about one billion Swiss francs (650 million euros, 971 million dollars) a year while exports are at three billion francs.

On the second day of his two-day visit, Medvedev is expected to visit central Switzerland, in the footsteps of Russian geneval Alexandre Souvorov, who in 1799 crossed the Alps from Italy to cut off the advance of Napoleon's troops.

To mark the visit, Medvedev has given two orphaned bear cubs to the Swiss capital Bern, which is named after the German word for bear.

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