Switzerland and other countries have imposed economic sanctions and taken diplomatic measures in response to the violations of international law that have been committed since the crisis in Syria erupted. The Swiss embassy in Damascus was closed in 2012 for security reasons. Travel to Syria is not recommended under any circumstances due to the security situation.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
In view of the extremely serious situation in Syria, Switzerland is working to alleviate the suffering of the population, to ensure respect for international law and to contribute to a just and lasting political solution. Switzerland maintains contact with the Syrian authorities in the context of its humanitarian and peace policy and in its capacity as host state.
Switzerland's efforts in Syria are focused on the following core areas:
- Humanitarian aid: the humanitarian programme in Syria and in the affected neighbouring countries is the largest ever undertaken by Switzerland.
- Support for the United Nations-led peace process: the parties involved have, to date, failed to reach an agreement on any of the five issues for negotiation: governance, constitutional process, elections, counter-terrorism and security, and confidence-building measures. The UN Special Envoy for Syria is now focusing on the work of the Constitutional Committee.
- Upholding and promoting international humanitarian law, respecting human rights and fighting impunity.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Since 2011, Switzerland has allocated more than CHF 438 million to assist the affected population. Half of the funds have been used to support and protect the victims of the conflict in Syria and the remainder to deliver aid in neighbouring countries hosting the majority of Syrian refugees, including Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Switzerland provides assistance to a range of humanitarian organisations (ICRC, UN, INGOs), supplies specialists from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit and engages in dialogue with the Syrian and Iranian governments with a view to improving the conditions in which humanitarian aid organisations operate in Syria.
History of bilateral relations
Relations between Switzerland and Syria go back a long way. The historical Silk Road ran through Syria, linking Europe to the Middle East and East Asia. In the 19th century, Switzerland exported textiles and chemicals to Syria and imported textiles from Syria. Swiss traders established themselves in Aleppo, a commercial hub between East and West.
Syria declared its independence in 1941 and Switzerland recognised the new republic in 1945. From 1946 to 1958, Switzerland was represented in Damascus by a chancery office, then by a consulate-general, which was transformed into an embassy in 1962.
The Swiss embassy in Damascus was closed in 2012 for security reasons. Switzerland has a humanitarian presence in Damascus since December 2017 through an office that is responsible for coordinating Switzerland's humanitarian activities in Syria.