Iran receives first shipment under Swiss humanitarian trade channel

Many Iranians blame the shortage of medicines in pharmacies on US sanctions. Keystone / Abedin Taherkenareh

A humanitarian aid channel allowing Swiss-based companies to send medicines and other vital goods to Iran despite US sanctions has become operational.   

This content was published on July 27, 2020 - 11:43

On Monday, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) confirmed to Reuters that the first transaction had been completed. The channel, known as the “Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement” (SHTA), was facilitated by Swiss “good offices” between the US and Iran. It comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Iran particularly hard, and as Switzerland and Tehran mark 100 years of diplomatic ties. Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from US sanctions.   

“We would like to emphasise that the operationalisation of the SHTA is progressing and that a number of companies have already been approved, more companies will follow. Further transactions should be carried out shortly,” SECO told Reuters by email.  

SECO did not identify the Swiss drugmaker or give a value for the shipment, which it said involved a cancer drug used to treat iron overload caused by repeated blood transfusions.   

Trial operations of the channel began in January, during which Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis supplied Iran with €2.3 million (CHF2.4 million) worth of cancer drugs and medicines needed for organ transplants. The channel has not taken off; Swiss officials blame delays on Covid-19.  

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