Saudi Arabia is an important partner for Switzerland because of its role in the world economy, the Muslim world and the Middle East. The two countries have strengthened relations in recent years and improved the conditions for trade.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Saudi Arabia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Since the second half of the 20th century, Switzerland has been a popular destination for Saudis, who appreciate its tourist infrastructure, schools and healthcare system. Saudi Arabia is the custodian of Islam's holiest sites (Mecca and Medina), a major oil producer, home to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a member of G20, and an influential country in the Middle East. The country is therefore an important partner for Switzerland. At the political level, the two countries work together in a wide range of areas, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
Switzerland has an embassy in Riyadh and a consulate general in Jeddah, while Saudi Arabia maintains an embassy in Bern.
Saudi Arabia has considerable economic potential for Switzerland, partly because of the size of its market, to which it mainly exports pharmaceutical products, watches and gold, and partly because of investment conditions. The investment climate has steadily improved since Saudi Arabia joined the WTO in 2005 and introduced significant reforms in line with the Saudi Vision 2030. Saudi Arabia is currently Switzerland's second largest trading partner in the Middle East after the United Arab Emirates. The two countries have been working to improve the conditions for trade by entering into bilateral agreements. Free trade, investment promotion and protection and air transport agreements are already in place.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Saudi Arabia may apply to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Swiss nationals in Saudia Arabia
In 2018 there were 329 Swiss nationals living in Saudi Arabia.
History of bilateral relations
The first contacts between Switzerland and the Arabian Peninsula date back to before the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the 19th century, the Swiss scholar Johann Ludwig Burckhardt was among the first Europeans to visit Mecca. Switzerland and Saudi Arabia established diplomatic relations in 1956, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which was recognised by Switzerland in 1927. In 2017, Switzerland signed reciprocal protecting power mandates with Saudi Arabia and Iran which mainly cover consular services.