Switzerland and Iran maintain good diplomatic relations and meet regularly for political consultations. Switzerland represents US interests in Iran as a protecting power.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Iran
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Political consultations are regularly held in Bern and Tehran. Switzerland has represented the interests of the United States in Iran since 1980 and those of Iran in Egypt since 1979. In 2017, agreements were signed on the representation of Saudi Arabia's interests in Iran and vice versa.
A road map to strengthen Swiss-Iranian ties was signed in 2016 during a state visit to Tehran by the then president of the Swiss Confederation, Johann Schneider-Ammann. Agreements also exist on air traffic (1954, 1972 and 2004), road transport (1977 and 2018), export risk guarantees (1966), investment protection (1998) and double taxation (2002). A bilateral trade agreement has been in force since 2017.
Economic relations between Switzerland and Iran have traditionally been good. However, the uncertainty created as a result of the United States' withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran now poses certain challenges for the Swiss export industry. In particular, the Swiss banking and finance sector is very cautious about doing business with Iran.
Switzerland implements the UN sanctions that are binding under international law. On a case-by-case basis, Switzerland may also autonomously apply unilateral sanctions imposed by its main trading partners, i.e. the EU.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Swiss universities and the two federal institutes of technology (EPFL in Lausanne and ETH Zurich) enjoy a good reputation among students from Iran.
Researchers and artists from Iran may apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
After the severe earthquakes of 1997, 2003 and 2012 and the floods of 2018, Switzerland provided emergency aid and assisted in rebuilding infrastructure.
Swiss nationals in Iran
At the end of 2018, there were 214 Swiss nationals living in Iran.
The two countries have regular cultural exchanges. Several Swiss museums have hosted important exhibitions on loan from Iran.
History of bilateral relations
Swiss watchmakers settled in the Persian Empire as early as the 17th century. Economic relations strengthened in the 19th century.
Iranians began coming to Switzerland in the 20th century, whether as tourists, refugees or students.
As a neutral state, Switzerland has represented the interests of a wide range of countries in Iran. It has also represented Iran's interests in several countries. Recently, in 2017, Switzerland signed reciprocal protecting power mandates with Saudi Arabia and Iran which mainly cover consular services.
In 1873, Switzerland and Iran signed a friendship and trade treaty. A friendship treaty and a treaty on permanent residence have existed since 1934. Switzerland opened a consulate in Tehran in 1919 and has maintained an embassy there since 1936.