Relations between Switzerland and Iran focus on peace and security policy, human rights, the economy, science, sustainable development and migration. Because it is a neutral country, Switzerland has been entrusted with various protecting power mandates in relation to Iran, including representing the interests of the United States in Iran.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Iran
On 14 October 2020 the Federal Council adopted a specific strategy for the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA Strategy) for the 2021 – 2024 period. It identifies five thematic priorities: peace, security and human rights; migration and protection of people in need; sustainable development; economic affairs, finance, science; and digitalization and new technologies.
These priorities are weighted differently across the various regions and countries. In the Arabian Peninsula and Iran, priority thematic areas for Switzerland are regional stability and security, economic and financial cooperation, and sustainable natural resource management.
Switzerland's focus in Iran
The MENA Strategy 2021 – 2024 identifies the following priorities for Switzerland in Iran:
Peace, security and human rights
In the area of security, Switzerland is launching regional security initiatives to promote dialogue between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula states. The protecting power mandates are implemented with the states involved and extended if possible (mandates in Saudi Arabia, Canada). They serve as a basis for further confidence-building measures by Switzerland. Switzerland is working internationally to ensure that the development of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme continues to be prevented. It supports the bilateral dialogue on human rights and justice with relevant projects.
Switzerland is developing bilateral cooperation in water management. It includes Iran in regional initiatives in areas such as health, food security, water management and climate protection
Access to the market
Switzerland supports its companies in a sanctions environment (e.g. through the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, SHTA). It promotes Iran's integration into the normative framework of world trade, including through technical cooperation in the area of intellectual property.
Using existing instruments and within the framework of the "International Strategy for Education, Research and Innovation", Switzerland networks interested research institutions in Switzerland and Iran with the aim of maintaining and deepening existing cooperation. ZHAW promotes and supports scientific cooperation with key institutions during the funding period 2021 – 2024.
Switzerland conducts dialogue on migration with a view to curbing irregular migration. Switzerland is keen to conclude a migration agreement with Iran.
Other areas of cooperation
The two countries maintain regular cultural exchanges. Several Swiss museums have received important works on loan from Iranian collections.
Switzerland regularly participates in events to promote the French language as part of the International Day of La Francophonie and the Italian culture week (Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo). It also organises various cultural events.
Swiss nationals in Iran
In 2022, there were 179 Swiss citizens living in Iran.
History of bilateral relations
Swiss watchmakers settled in the Persian Empire as early as the 17th century. Economic relations expanded in the 19th century.
In 1873, Switzerland and Iran signed a friendship and trade treaty and in 1934 a friendship treaty and a treaty on permanent residence. Switzerland opened a consulate in Tehran in 1919 and has maintained an embassy there since 1936.
Iranians began coming to Switzerland in the 20th century as tourists, refugees and students.
During a state visit to Tehran in 2016, President of the Swiss Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann signed a roadmap to strengthen bilateral relations with Iran.
In 2020, the two countries celebrated 100 years of Swiss diplomatic presence in Iran, culminating in an official visit to Tehran by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis.
Because it is a neutral country, Switzerland has been entrusted with various protecting power mandates in relation to Iran. It represents Iran in Egypt (since 1979), the US in Iran (since 1980), Iran in Saudi Arabia and vice versa (since 2017), and Iran in Canada (since 2019).