Former Cuban Interests Section

Historic Step: Switzerland Welcomes the Reopening of the Embassies in Havana and Washington D.C.

Former Prime Minister of Cuba Fidel Castro and Swiss Ambassador Stadelhofer, Cuba 1961
Former Prime Minister of Cuba Fidel Castro talking with Swiss Ambassador Stadelhofer, Cuba 1961

 

Switzerland congratulates Cuba and the United States on their plans to reopen the Cuban embassy in Washington and the US embassy in Havana. This step marks an important milestone towards normalising relations between Cuba and the United States. The reopening of the embassies also brings to an end the protecting power mandates that Switzerland has carried out since 1961 for the United States in Cuba and, since 1991, for Cuba in the United States. Switzerland strongly believes that the reopening of the two embassies and the normalisation process will overall be beneficial for the two states and contribute to security, stability and prosperity in the region. Switzerland views the normalisation of relations between Cuba and the US as very positive – not only for these two countries but for the whole region and for world stability.

For Switzerland the role of protecting power is part of the traditional good offices it offers within the scope of a responsible foreign policy. With its long-standing Cuba-US mandate, Switzerland has also contributed to rapprochement between the two countries.

The end of the mandate will have no impact on Switzerland's bilateral relations with the US and with Cuba. The goodwill towards Switzerland and the appreciation of its commitment in fulfilling its mandate, which was characterised by reliability and credibility, will remain. In a letter to Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the beginning of January 2015, the United States secretary of state, John Kerry, expressed his "deep gratitude" for Switzerland's efforts and its commitment as protecting power for the United States in Cuba. The dedication of the people of Switzerland to rapprochement between the two states, especially during the Cold War, was "an inspiration to us all and a monument to patience in the service of peace".

Between 1961 and 1977 the Swiss mandate for the United States, which was marked in particular by the 1962 Cuban Crisis, was in-depth and comprehensive. In 1977, the United States and Cuba agreed to open up foreign interests' sections in each other's capital. The US foreign interests' section operated under the protection of the Swiss embassy in Havana. In 1991, the Cuban foreign interests' section was attached to the Swiss embassy in Washington. Since 1977, Switzerland’s double mandate has been primarily of a formal nature.

The Swiss protecting power mandates in Havana and Washington cannot (after 1977) be compared with Switzerland's far more comprehensive protecting power mandate for the United States in Iran, where Switzerland is much more closely and directly involved. The Iran mandate will continue as before.

Historic View on Switzerland's Mandates to represent United States Interests in Cuba and Cuban Interests in the United States

 

From the end of the 19th century, but particularly during the Second World War, Switzerland took on a large number of mandates to represent the diplomatic interests of foreign states in third countries, mainly due to its policy of neutrality. Its mandate to represent the United States in Cuba is the longest in Swiss history. It lasted from 1961 to 2015, albeit in reduced form from 1977 when management of the United States Interests Section in Havana was taken over by US officials working in their former embassy. Between 1961 and 1980, the Swiss delegation faced many challenges.

From 1961 onwards, it engaged intensively in negotiations and worked hard to find solutions benefiting US citizens and interests in Cuba. This was especially true in the first years, amid the global tensions resulting from the Cold War. Discreetly but effectively, the Swiss representation in Cuba acted as a privileged intermediary between the two governments, a neutral but effective player in extremely tense political situations. In particular, it was instrumental in enabling 260,000 Cubans to leave for the United States.

 

Résumé Historique - Francais

Historic View - English