Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Iraq are good and have become closer in recent years. Switzerland prioritises migration and peacebuilding, engaging in a range of cooperation activities, particularly in the humanitarian field, to assist in stabilising the country and achieving lasting peace.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Iraq
On 14 October 2020 the Federal Council adopted a specific strategy for the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA Strategy) for the 2021–24 period. It identifies five thematic priorities: peace, security and human rights; migration and protection of people in need; sustainable development; economic affairs, finance, science; and digitalisation and new technologies.
These priorities are weighted differently across the various regions and countries. Switzerland's three priority thematic areas for the Middle East region are armed or political conflicts, economic development and governance. Switzerland is also addressing the needs of young people by promoting the development of vocational training, thus facilitating access to the labour market.
Switzerland’s focus in Iraq
The MENA Strategy identifies three focus areas for Iraq:
1. Peace, security and human rights
Switzerland's priorities are promoting dialogue, dealing with the past, the rule of law and human rights.
2. Migration and protection of people in need
The return and reintegration of asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected is at the forefront of concerns. In the area of migration, bilateral relations with Iraq need to be further developed and formalised. Switzerland seeks to ensure that the basic needs of internally displaced persons are met.
Switzerland is carrying out humanitarian aid in Iraq within the framework of the 2019–22 Swiss cooperation programme for the Middle East. The programme's overall goal is to help protect and empower conflict-affected and vulnerable people, save and rebuild lives, reduce fragility, prevent and transform violent conflicts and generate development prospects, promote good governance, and protect and promote human rights, the rights of refugees and respect for international humanitarian law. To achieve these objectives, Swiss humanitarian aid in Iraq focuses on two areas of intervention: 1) protection and 2) water, sanitation and hygiene.
3. Sustainable development
Switzerland is engaging in active dialogue with the Iraqi government with a view to improving economic conditions.
Other areas of cooperation
Economy, finances and science
Trade between Switzerland and Iraq slowly resumed after it came to a virtual halt in 1991 following the first Gulf War and the imposition of UN sanctions. Swiss export volume to Iraq fell again from 2003, but has since picked up. Switzerland primarily exports pharmaceutical products to Iraq. Although the level of imported goods from Iraq has historically been low, it has increased in recent years. In 2020, the volume of trade between the two countries stood at CHF 255 billion.
Education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists who are citizens of Iraq can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Swiss nationals in Iraq
At the end of 2020, there were 107 Swiss nationals living in Iraq.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland gave de facto recognition to the new Iraqi state in August 1930 when the Federal Council received King Faisal I once the British Mandate had come to an end. In 1936 Switzerland established a consulate in Baghdad, which was changed to a legation in 1955. Iraq became a republic on 31 July 1958, with Switzerland recognising the Republic of Iraq shortly afterwards.
The Swiss embassy in Iraq had to close in 1991 as a result of the first Gulf War. In November 2000, Switzerland opened a diplomatic liaison office in Baghdad to safeguard its interests, which also had to be closed in October 2008 for security reasons.
Since then, the Swiss ambassador to Jordan, based in Amman, has also been accredited for the purpose of safeguarding Switzerland's interests in Iraq. The Iraqi embassy in Bern represents Iraq's interests in Switzerland.