Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Iraq are good and have become closer in recent years. In its relations with Iraq, Switzerland focuses on migration and peacebuilding. Switzerland is supporting the stabilisation of the country and the maintenance of lasting peace through various cooperation activities, particularly in the humanitarian field.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Iraq
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland effectively recognised Iraq when the Federal Council received King Faisal I in August 1930 following the end of the British mandate. A consulate was opened in Baghdad in 1936, which was transformed into a legation in 1955. Iraq became a republic on 31 July 1958 and Switzerland recognised the Republic of Iraq shortly after.
The first Gulf War (1991) led to the closing of the Swiss embassy in Iraq. In November 2000, Switzerland opened a diplomatic liaison office in Baghdad to represent its interests, which had to be closed in October 2008 for security reasons.
Since then, the Swiss ambassador in Amman, Jordan, has been accredited to Iraq. Iraqi interests in Switzerland are represented by the Iraqi embassy in Bern.
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 Near East region (Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, oPt and Syria) are armed and 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:
- Peace, security and human rights;
- Migration and protection of people in need;
- Sustainable development.
1. Peace, security and human rights
Switzerland’s focus is primarily on promoting dialogue as well as on human rights, the rule of law and dealing with the past.
2. Migration and protection of people in need
The focus here is on the return and reintegration of rejected asylum seekers. Switzerland aims to step up and formalize bilateral relations with Iraq on migration-related matters and is committed to meeting the basic needs of internally displaced persons.
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 engages actively with the government to improve the economic situation.
Other areas of cooperation
Economy, finances and science
Following the first Gulf War in 1991 and the subsequent sanctions imposed by the United Nations, trade between Switzerland and Iraq came almost to a standstill and only recovered slowly. In 2003 Swiss exports to Iraq again collapsed but have since recovered. Switzerland exports mainly pharmaceuticals to Iraq. Imports from Iraq have traditionally been modest but have increased in recent years. In 2020, the volume of trade between the two countries stood at CHF 255 million.
Education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Algeria can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Swiss nationals in Iraq
At the end of 2020, there were 107 Swiss nationals living in Iraq.