The Swiss government has confirmed that it will officially take up a protecting power mandate in the Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict, representing the rivals’ consular interests in each other’s capital.
Though it has been on the cards for over a year, the cabinet gave the go-ahead for the mandate in a statementexternal link on Wednesday and confirmed that relevant agreements had also been signed in Tehran and Riyadh.
The mandate will cover the representation of Iranian interests in Riyadh, and Saudi interests in Tehran.
Switzerland has been in negotiations with the two powers since February 2016, a month after the controversial execution of a Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia and a subsequent attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran led to a freeze in relations.
No mediation for now
So-called protecting power mandatesexternal link involve taking on some consular and diplomatic tasks in the event of a breakdown in relations between two states, allowing for the continuation of low-level engagement.
It is one half of the two types of ‘good offices’ proposed by neutral Switzerland on the international scene; the other includes mediation and facilitation efforts.
In the case of the Iran-Saudi standoff, which represents the major ideological and religious fault line in the Middle East region, there was no indication on Wednesday that Switzerland is also poised to get involved at a more substantial level.
However, it has previously offered its services for as a mediator, and both Middle East states were said to be considering.
The Swiss cabinet reiterated that it has placed explicit emphasis on protecting power mandates in its 2016-19 foreign policy strategy. In the past, the country has fulfilled over 200 such missions, notably during the Second World War.
The Iran-Saudi mandate brings its current total to five: the others include fulfilling consular duties between Iran and Egypt, the US and Iran, Russia and Georgia, and the US and Cuba.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/dos