THE ASIA PACIFIC Ambassadors in Switzerland, led by its Dean, Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland Leslie Baja, hosted a working lunch for Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter in Berne on June 15.

Ambassador Baja said that it has been almost three years since Mr. Burkhalter sat down for a working lunch with the group and expressed appreciation for Switzerland’s increasing engagement with the Asia Pacific region.

Foreign Minister Burkhalter has undertaken two major visits to Asia in 2015, including to Sendai, Japan for a United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction conference in March, to Indonesia, to Singapore for the Shangri La Dialogue, to South Korea for an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Asia contact group meeting and to Vietnam to inaugurate a Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.

Both Ambassador Baja and Minister Burkhalter highlighted one key principle of Swiss foreign policy: Cooperative Security can help avoid military competition and arms race in the Asia Pacific and ensure that the region remains an economic powerhouse and does not turn into a zone of strategic rivalry and instability.

This position was one of the main points Mr. Burkhalter made in his recent trip to South Korea and Singapore.

Mr. Burkhalter made two references to the West Philippine Sea issue in the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore.

He said that, “Even if progress in establishing a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea may have been slow in the past, this could be a potential avenue to defuse tensions in the region.”

He stressed that, “Concerns about unilateral actions in the South China Sea have been growing lately.However, tensions have not yet reached levels where efforts to strengthen cooperative security would seem futile.”

The ambassadors and Mr. Burkhalter also noted the strong response of Switzerland to humanitarian crises in Asia including the latest one in Nepal.

Ambassador Baja once again took the opportunity to thank and highlight the generous Swiss contribution of over 40 million Swiss Francs to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in 2013. PR