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Politics Monitor

Switzerland acts as the “postman” between Washington and Tehran during crises

Washington and Tehran do not have diplomatic relations, but the two enemy capitals can continue to talk to each other thanks to the good offices of Switzerland. It is in moments of greatest tension that the role of “postman” of the Swiss Confederation is particularly valuable.

Thus, there was “a series of direct communications relayed by Switzerland” between the United States and Iran, according to an American official, before the unprecedented attack of several hundred drones and missiles from Iran against Israel. The head of the Iranian armed forces, General Mohammad Bagheri, was more specific about the content which warns the United States “that if it cooperates with Israel in its possible next actions, its bases will not be safe.” A message sent via the Swiss embassy.

Switzerland has represented American interests in Iran since the hostage taking at the United States embassy in Tehran in 1980, recalls the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) on its website. As a protecting power, it allows the two countries to maintain a minimum of diplomatic and consular relations. On the diplomatic level, “Switzerland can itself offer its +postman+ services or assume this function at the request of the countries concerned, as long as all parties agree,” specifies the DFAE.

In accordance with its tradition of good offices, Switzerland also plays the role of mediator. For example, it has on several occasions helped prisoner exchanges between Iran and the United States. Iran’s interests in the United States are represented by Pakistan.

In addition to communication between the two states, the foreign interests section of the Swiss embassy in Tehran handles all consular matters of the United States in Iran (passport applications, changes of civil status or even consular protection of American nationals). Switzerland for the first time assumed the role of protecting power by representing in France the interests of the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Grand Duchy of Baden during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, recalls the ministry. It also exercised mandates as a protecting power during the First World War and “it emerged, during the Second World War, as the protecting power par excellence due to its neutrality”, underlines the DFAE.

During this period, Bern represented the interests of 35 states, including some of the great powers at war, through more than 200 one-off mandates.

This article is originally published on lorientlejour.com

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