Iran protests to Swiss envoy over US drone airspace ‘violation’

Anti-war protestors in front of the White House on Thursday Keystone

Iran has reportedly protested to the Swiss envoy in Tehran, the representative of United States interests, over what Iran said was a violation of its airspace by a US drone which Iranian forces shot down. 

This content was published on June 21, 2019 - 10:30

“There is undeniable evidence that the drone was in Iran’s airspace, and even parts of it were found in Iran’s territorial waters,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told the envoy on Thursday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. 

On Friday Fars said Iran had told the US via the Swiss ambassador that Washington would be responsible for the consequences of any military action against Iran.

Politically neutral Switzerland holds several protecting power mandatesExternal link globally, acting as a diplomatic messenger between Iran and the US, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. 

On June 13 Switzerland extended its role of providing good offices between disputing countries by signing an agreement to represent Iran’s interests in Canada. It has also agreed to represent the interests of the US in VenezuelaExternal link pending final approval by the South American country. 

In May US broadcaster CNN reported that, after US President Donald Trump had publicly appealed to Iran to call him amid heightened tensions with Tehran, the White House contacted the SwissExternal link to share a phone number the Iranians could call Trump on, according to a diplomatic source familiar with the move. 

The source said the Swiss probably wouldn’t hand over the number unless the Iranians specifically ask for it and it’s thought they are highly unlikely to do so. 

Series of incidents 

On Thursday Trump played down Iran’s downing of a US military surveillance drone, saying he suspected it was shot by mistake. 

Tehran said the unarmed Global Hawk surveillance drone was on a spy mission over its territory, but Washington said it was shot down over international airspace. 

The United States, which called the event an “unprovoked attack” in international airspace, is using economic sanctions to pressure Iran to contain its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and to limit its role in regional wars. 

It was the latest in an escalating series of incidents in the Gulf region, a critical artery for global oil supplies, since mid-May, including explosive strikes on six oil tankers.

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