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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Switzerland's Political and Economical Ties to Iran

- The Swiss department for foreign affairs states,  'Iran and Switzerland are maintaining good bi-lateral relations'. Switzerland has been playing the role of diplomatic and consular proxy for US interests in Iran since 1980. However, Switzerland was also the fourth country worldwide to accept a new ambassador sent by the Ayatollahs after 1979.

- In past years, high-ranking visits were repeatedly exchanged. In 2000, the Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi travelled to Bern, as did his deputy, Ali Ahani, in 2001.  In 2001 and 2003, the Swiss minister for economic affairs visited Iran, as did Swiss foreign minister in 2001 and 2002. In April 2009 President Hans-Rudolf Merz received Mahmoud Ajmadinejad in Genf. At the UN's World Conference against Racism, the Swiss delegates endured Ahmadinejad's diatribe patiently while others left the room in protest. The Swiss Ambassador to the United Nations Peter Maurer visited Iran to meet regime representatives in early 2011.

- An investment protection agreement was agreed upon in 1998, in 2002 one on double taxation and in 2004, one on air transport was signed. A trade agreement signed in 2005 has not been ratified, yet. Since 2003, Bern has been officially engaged in a 'human rights dialogue' with Tehran so as to give their economic relations a humanitarian look.

- According to the foreign ministry in Bern, Iran is 'one of Switzerland's most important trade partners in the middle east'. Swiss high street banks such as Credit Suisse or UBS may have given in to US pressure and retreated from the Iranian market for the most part; in the year 2010, however, 741 million Swiss francs worth of goods were exported to Iran.

- Around 15 Swiss companies have their own branch in Iran, says Switzerland's ambassador to Iran, Livia Leu Agosti. Important Swiss companies such as Bühler Technologies, the industry trust Sulzer, the specialist for molecular sieves and silica gels Zeochem, and the joining and process technology manufacturer Telsonic have been taking part in recent years' Iranian Oil Show. The major enterprises SGS, Nestlé, Roche and Novartis are active in Iran, and so are energy and automation technology manufacturer ABB and the cement producer Holcim, owner of 49,9% of Tehran-based Espandar Cement Investment Co. In 2010, tunnel builder Ceresola signed a 1.4 million Euro contract with the Iranian company Raheb, which has been added to the UN sanctions list in the mean time. 

- In past years, shipments to Iran were repeatedly investigated for illegal military equipment or dual-use goods. Today Oerlikon-Cannons are part of the military defense of the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz against potential attacks. Rumor has it that they have already been used in military manouvers.

- The most important deal to date was sealed in March 2008. In connection with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline project, EGL (formerly known as Elektrizitätsgesellschaft Laufenburg) and the state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Company agreed to a transaction worth roughly 20 billion Dollar. Starting 2012 at the latest, 5.5 billion m³ of natural gas per year are to be exported by Iran for 25 years. Italy is named as one of the primary counsumer countries.

- At the special request of the Iranian regime, foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey travelled to Iran in person for the completion of the deal on behalf of EGL, of which Swiss state-owned AXPO holds 91%. In Tehran, Calmy-Rey had her photo taken wearing a headscarf and laughing next to President Ahmadinejad. Seyed Reza Kassaei, director of the National Iranian Gas Export Company emphasized the importance of the deal, 'This contract ranges among our most important ones'.

- Since mid-September 2010, EGL and AXPO have been declaring they would do without natural gas from Iran during the 'start-up phase' of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. At the same time it is emphasized that the delivery contract with Iran would remain intact independently of the TAP.

- Since late 2009, Switzerland has supported Iran's accession to the World Trade Organization, much sought by Iran for 14 years. This induced Swiss newspaper Sonntag to call Switzerland 'Iran's most steadfast ally in the western world'.