mw. Since the death of the young Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on 16 September after her arrest by the Iranian police, protest demonstrations have taken place which have been broken up violently by the police on several occasions. How far the demonstrations are to be expanded into a “colour revolution” with the help of foreign secret services, is anyone’s guess. Just one hint: At an election rally in California, President Joe Biden told participants who held mobile phones in the air with slogans such as “Free Iran”: “Don’t worry, we’re gonna free Iran.” Refreshingly, the response of Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi to demonstrators in Tehran: “Mr. President (Biden), Iran became free 43 years ago and determined not to be your prisoner. And we will never be a cash cow.” (RT of 4 November 2022).
Solidarity rallies are now being organised in European cities, including in Bern on 5 November, where the protesters are demanded the adoption of EU sanctions by the Federal Council. On 17 and 20 October, Brussels had sanctioned several persons and organisations in connection with the death of Mahsa Amini. On 2 November, the Federal Council decided “not to apply the EU sanctions against Iran imposed in connection with the current protests. The decision was taken with due regard for all inner and foreign policy interests of Switzerland, including the good offices of Switzerland in Iran”. (Media release of the Federal Council of 2 November 2022)
An important reason for this decision are the “five protecting power mandates (USA in Iran, Iran in Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia Iran, Iran in Canada, Iran in Egypt), which Switzerland maintains in connection with Iran”. In its media release, the Federal Council shows that it is well aware of how Switzerland operates best in international conﬂicts: “Switzerland is one of the few countries that maintains regular bilateral dialogue on human rights and justice issues with Iran. The dialogue offers Switzerland the opportunity to express its expectations and demands on freedom of expression, abolition of the death penalty, fight off torture, the protection of minorities and women’s rights in direct talks with the Iranian authorities.” This opportunity would be lost if Iran would be covered with new sanctions.
Mediation is much more valuable than sanctions
In this sense, two members of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Swiss National Council also took a stand in this regard on Radio SRF. Roland Büchel, SVP National Councillor, states that Switzerland was to back the UN sanctions, but it should not undertake any sanctions beyond that. Hanspeter Portmann, National Councillor FDP, reminds us of the basic of Swiss foreign policy: “Such sanctions against individuals or against individual companies in most cases do not really achieve anything and it is much more valuable that Switzerland with its [protecting power] mandate tries to protest and also to mediate this way so that human rights are respected.” (Radio SRF, Echo der Zeit of 5 November 2022)
It’s good that some politicians are returning to Switzerland’s core foreign policy tasks, which must apply to all countries in the world. Incidentally, our country could have assumed a protecting power mandate to represent mutual interests between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine had asked Switzerland to do so in the summer, but Russia understandably refused: “The Swiss government is no longer neutral by adopting the sanctions against Russia,” wrote the Russian embassy in Bern, according to swissinfo.ch. (“Ukraine wants to give Switzerland a protective power mandate – Moscow is slowing down”. Keystone SDA of 11 August 2022).
Swissinfo (Switzerland’s public news and information platform owned by Swiss Television SRF) adds: “Switzerland has a long tradition as a protecting power. For the first time, it represented the interests of the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Grand Duchy of Baden during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 in France. As a protecting power, it is, for example, the contact point for nationals who live in the other country but no longer have an embassy there if the home and host countries have broken off ties. She can also deliver diplomatic cables if necessary and act as an intermediary in negotiations.”
There is nothing to add to that, except: Let’s stick to it! •
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