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Humanitarian channel for Iran: talks at Davos

A Swiss-facilitated humanitarian trade channel to bring food and medicine to Iran will be the subject of talks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Swiss public television SRF says.

Switzerland acts as an intermediary between the United States and Iran, though its good offices. Recent tensions between Washington and Tehran have brought its messenger role into the spotlight.

For more than a year and a half, Switzerland has also been working on a payment channel for Swiss companies and banks that would allow humanitarian goods to be delivered to Iran, despite US sanctions on the country. This is known as the “Swiss Humanitarian Trade Agreement (SHTA)”, SRF says. Negotiations have been held on the issue with the US.

The SHTA will be the subject of “high-level bilateral talks” at the WEF, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) confirmed to SRF on Sunday.

WEF, which runs from January 21-24 in the Swiss mountain resort, is expected to attract around 500 high-profile business and political figures, and other leaders of society. One of the most high-profile attendees is US President Donald Trump.

Iran, US stance

In an interview ahead of Davos with SRF, published in English on swissinfo.ch on Friday, Iranian ambassador in Bern, Mohammad Reza Haji Karim Jabbari, spoke about the possible humanitarian trade channel for the first time.

The ambassador said that Iran appreciated Switzerland’s role in trying to establish the channel and that fact that the country had conducted “extensive negotiations with the US government”. He said there was shortage of medicine and medical supplies in Iran and “the root of the medicine shortage lies in the blocking of our banking system” by the US.

As for the US, in an interview with the Reuters news agency published on December 11, 2019, Edward McMullen, the US ambassador to Bern, was optimistic about the prospects for the Swiss model. “Fortunately, I think we are at that point now where we are working with Switzerland on the final details. And hopefully we’ll be seeing some kind of finality to that conversation in the near future,” he told Reuters.