Saudi Arabia is a priority partner for Switzerland because of its role in the world economy, in the Muslim world and in the Middle East. In recent years the two countries have significantly improved the framework conditions for trade between them.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Saudi Arabia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Since the second half of the 20th century, thanks especially to the appeal of International Geneva, Switzerland has been a preferred destination for Saudis, who appreciate its tourist infrastructure, its educational establishments and its healthcare system. For Switzerland, Saudi Arabia is a priority partner, as it is the guardian of the main holy places of Islam (Mecca and Medina), a major oil producer, the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a member of G20 and an influential country in the Middle East.
At the political level the two countries collaborate in a wide range of areas, both bilateral and multilateral.
Switzerland has an embassy in Riyadh and a consulate general in Jeddah. Saudi Arabia has an embassy in Bern and a permanent mission in Geneva.
Saudi Arabia has considerable economic potential for Switzerland, partly because of the size of its market (it mainly imports watches, machine tools and pharmaceutical products) and partly because of investment conditions. Saudi Arabia joined the WTO in 2005. Following radical internal reforms, investment conditions in Saudi Arabia are considered among the most favourable in the world by international institutions. Saudi Arabia is currently Switzerland's second trading partner in the Middle East after the United Arab Emirates.
The two countries have been working to improve framework conditions for their exchanges. This led to the conclusion of bilateral agreements on the promotion and protection of investments (signed on 1.4. 2006 and in force since 9.8.2008) and air traffic agreement (signed 4.7.2009 and in the course of ratification). Negotiations for a double taxation agreement began in December 2010.
Furthermore Switzerland and Saudi Arabia together with other members of the European Free Trade Association and the Gulf Cooperation Council signed a free trade agreement on 22.6.2009 (ratified by Saudi Arabia; ratification by another Gulf state is needed for the agreement to enter into force).
Cooperation in the domain of education
Scholars and artists from Saudia Arabia can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Swiss nationals in Saudia Arabia
The Swiss community in Saudia Arabia is 342-strong.
History of bilateral relations
The first contacts between Switzerland and Arabia date back to the period before the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the 19th century, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt of Basel was one of the first Westerners to visit Mecca. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the latter was recognised by Switzerland in 1927. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1956.