The leaders of Switzerland and Iran agreed Saturday to establish a “road map” for bolstering trade and diplomatic ties between the two nations, with Tehran courting the banking giant as key to boosting its financial situation after years of punishing sanctions.
On a Saturday visit to the Iranian capital Tehran, Switzerland’s President Johann Schneider-Ammann met the leaders of Iran, including its president Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The purpose of Schneider’s visit “is to relaunch various dialogues between Switzerland and Iran,” the former’s Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
“These include an economic and financial dialogue and a human rights and justice dialogue; a dialogue on migration issues is already underway,” the statement added.
Switzerland’s bid for Iranian business follows on the heels of Italian, German, French and British high-profile visits to the Islamic Republic in the wake of the easing of sanctions under last year’s nuclear deal between Tehran and six Western powers.
Iranian officials indicated Saturday they were also looking to re-establish banking ties with Switzerland, seen as key to integrating into the world financial system.
The head of Iran’s central bank Valiollah Seif said recent legislation ratified in Tehran boosting transparency in the banking sector would allow the Swiss to remove Iran from a blacklist of financial supporters of terrorism, the Iranian state-run IRNA news website reported.
The statement came just days after Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon said Tehran would start disbursing thousands of dollars to the families of Palestinians who attacks Israelis and to families of terrorists whose homes are torn by Israeli authorities.
While the Swiss statement noted human rights as a subject of discussion between the two countries, Iranian leaders used the visit to celebrate Iranian “democracy” in the form of Friday’s elections to parliament and the Assembly of Experts, as well as to chide other Western powers who have been more critical of Iranian human rights abuses and its role in several conflicts throughout the Middle East.
The Mehr News Agency quoted Iran’s Rouhani as saying Saturday: “One major principle that brings Iran and Switzerland close is believing in independence, national sovereignty, democracy, and this very election, all of which serve as the main pillars to these countries’ close ties.”
In their meeting, the two leaders discussed practical steps for boosting economic ties, according to Iranian reports. Rouhani told media outlets that he and Schneider-Ammann had agreed that Switzerland would help Iran obtain full membership in the World Trade Organization, where it has been an observer since 2005. The two countries would also finalize several unfinished memorandums of understanding related to scientific cooperation.
In a meeting earlier Saturday with Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader who holds the country’s top executive post for life, the ayatollah praised Switzerland’s historic neutrality, saying it “systematically avoided supporting and tacitly agreeing to sanctions and hostile behavior toward Iran, which distinguished it from other European countries whose interests lie solely in warmongering and fueling tension,” according to Mehr.
Khamenei recalled Iranians’ “dark memory of European countries’ conduct in the past when they supported Iran’s rival Saddam Hussein during the Imposed War and armed the Baathist party during the war; from this point of view, Iran’s nation has a great memory of [Switzerland] and we have seen your country historically as a center of peace and stability.”