EghtesadOnline: Switzerland’s foreign minister arrived in Iran on Saturday to hold discussions with Iranian authorities on a range of issues, including the Swiss financial channel that aims to help Iran avoid American sanctions.
Ignazio Cassis had a brief stop in the city of Isfahan before organizing talks in Tehran scheduled for Sunday, including celebrations marking 100 years of Switzerland's diplomatic presence in Iran, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by IRNA.
He will meet President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as well as other top officials, to confer on bilateral, regional and international issues.
Several members of the Swiss Parliament also accompany Cassis who will hold meetings in the Iranian Parliament during the visit, according to Khatibzadeh.
He said consultations will be focused on the humanitarian channel, known as the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, which allows Swiss-based companies to send medicines and other essential goods to Iran without being obstructed by American sanctions.
The United States reimposed tough sanctions on Tehran two years ago after withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal. Although Washington claims that humanitarian goods are exempted from the bans, banking and trade restrictions have practically made the import of such goods impossible.
The first shipment of medical supplies arrived in Tehran through the channel in July after a trial transaction earlier in January.
"We have serious doubts [about SHTA] due to the US destructive measures against this financial channel," Khatibzadeh said.
The previous transactions have been conducted using Iranian assets in Switzerland, but funding is a main concern about SHTA, given that those resources are limited.
"This trip is an opportunity to exchange views between the two countries to further activate SHTA and review solutions to address the problems," the diplomat said.
Khatibzadeh noted that Iran would welcome if this channel could bypass American pressure and use Iran's assets in other countries to facilitate the shipment of medicine and other humanitarian goods.
Switzerland has represented US interests in Iran since 1980 and in 2017, it assumed protecting power mandates for Iran in Saudi Arabia and for Saudi Arabia in Iran. Since 2019, it has also represented Iranian interests in Canada.
"Tehran-Bern relations are pursued at various levels within the framework of the roadmap prepared during the then Swiss president's visit to Iran in 2016 and Rouhani's subsequent trip to Switzerland in 2018," Khatibzadeh said.