Switzerland’s vital role as US-Iran go between amid soaring tensions

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Washington and Tehran have not had diplomatic relations for decades, but before Iran’s attack on Israel they had direct communications through “the Swiss channel”.

Switzerland represents US interests in Iran, and at times of soaring tensions its role as go-between takes on heightened importance.

The Swiss foreign ministry refused Monday to divulge what actions the country had taken in connection with Iran’s weekend attack on Israel.

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But US and Iranian officials alluded to the important role Switzerland was playing as an intermediary.

As Washington engaged in whirlwind efforts prior to the attack to prepare for the expected violence, it sent “a series of direct communications through the Swiss channel”, a senior administration official told AFP.

Mohammad Bagheri, the Iranian armed forces’ chief of staff, was more explicit, telling state television that “we sent a message to America through the Swiss embassy that if it cooperates with Israel in their next potential actions, their bases will not be secure”.

Maintaining relations

Switzerland, renowned for its neutrality, has been representing US interests in Iran since Washington broke off relations with Tehran after the 1980 hostage crisis, a year after the Iranian revolution.

In its role as the so-called protecting power, Switzerland has for decades allowed the two feuding nations to maintain a minimum of diplomatic and consular relations.

The Swiss embassy in Tehran handles all consular affairs between the United States and Iran, including passport requests, altering civil status and consular protection for US citizens in Iran.

Under the protecting power mandate, Switzerland allows “states to maintain low-level relations and provide consular protection to nationals of the other state concerned”, the foreign ministry explains on its website.

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