Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Iraq are limited, owing to the precarious security situation in Iraq. In its relations with Iraq Switzerland focuses on humanitarian issues, migration and peacebuilding.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Iraq
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
With the outbreak of the latest war in Iraq and the continuing crisis in the country, humanitarian aid has become the top priority of Swiss-Iraqi relations.
The countries' bilateral relations are otherwise characterised by a wide range of agreements in various areas. For example, agreements between Switzerland and Iraq have existed on aviation since 1956, on trade, economic and technical cooperation since 1978, and on debt reduction since 2005.
Following the first Gulf War in 1991 and the subsequent sanctions imposed by the United Nations, trade between Switzerland and Iraq practically came to a standstill and only recovered slowly.
With the US invasion 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, consisting primarily of fuel.
Collaboration in the domain of education
Researchers and artists from Iraq can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI).
Peacebuilding and human security
Since 2009, Switzerland has linked peacebuilding with the sustainable management of water resources in the Middle East, including in Iraq. This part of the world is experiencing a severe crisis characterised, among other things, by the deterioration and drying out of water resources.
The sustainable management of cross-border water reserves could not only prevent natural disasters and human suffering but also make a major contribution to peacebuilding. One of Switzerland's programmes that aims to achieve more cooperation and reduce conflicts using water resources is «The Blue Peace».
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Switzerland's activities in Iraq are set out in its Cooperation Strategy for the Middle East. The overarching aim of Switzerland in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria is to contribute to peaceful and secure living conditions for people affected by conflict and other vulnerable groups, to reduce fragility and to resolve and prevent conflict. Switzerland's activities focus on the following three areas: basic needs and services, protection of the civilian population, and water.
Switzerland has increased its humanitarian aid since the outbreak of the latest crisis in Iraq. Its contribution goes towards supporting programmes of partner organisations, including aid projects carried out by the UN, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and international and local non-governmental organisations. In addition, Switzerland deploys experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit to the region to provide technical support to partner organisations.
Swiss nationals in Iraq
In 2015 there were 83 Swiss citizens living in Iraq, of which 37 had dual nationality.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland de facto recognised Iraq when the Federal Council received King Faisal I in August 1930 following the end of the British mandate. Switzerland opened a consulate 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, but in October 2008 it too was closed.
The Swiss ambassador in Damascus represented Swiss interests in Iraq until Switzerland closed its embassy in Damascus in 2012. Since then, the Swiss embassy in Amman has also been accredited to Baghdad. Iraqi interests are represented by the Iraqi embassy in Bern.