The Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents the interests of the United States in Iran, has been called upon to convey messages between the two countries following the killing of an Iranian general by a US air strike.
Switzerland has called on both sides to avoid escalating an already volatile situation.
Iran has threatened “revenge” following the death of Qasem Soleimani in Iraq on Friday. The US has confirmed that President Donald Trump had ordered the strike against the head of the Iranian elite Quds Force.
The Iranian foreign ministry tweeted that it had summoned officials from the Swiss embassy to express outrage at the “assassination of General Soleimani”, saying it was a “blatant example of American state terrorism”, reports the Swiss news agency, Keystone-SDA.
In an emailed statement to swissinfo.ch, the Swiss foreign ministry "confirms that the chargé d'affaires of the Swiss embassy in Tehran was summoned to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 3 January 2020."
"The chargé d'affaires was summoned in connection with the protecting power mandate under which Switzerland represents the interests of the United States in Iran and which also allows a diplomatic channel of communication to be maintained between the US and Iran. The Swiss communication channel is fulfilling its function."
The statement added: "In view of recent developments in the region, Switzerland calls on both sides to avoid any further escalation."
Neutral Switzerland offers its “Good Officesexternal link” between countries that have cut off official ties due to disputes.
“Switzerland can build bridges where others are prevented from doing so, because it does not belong to any power bloc and does not pursue a hidden agenda,” states a Swiss foreign office website.
Switzerland has represented US interests in Iran with a “protecting power mandate” since a hostage crisis in 1980 when the US broke off diplomatic relations. The alpine state plays the same role in a number of other countriesexternal link.
US-Iranian relations have deteriorated in recent years after the US tightened sanctions against the Middle East country following concerns over its nuclear programme. Last month, Switzerland was praised for facilitating a prisoner swap between the US and Iran.
The death of General Soleimani, viewed by the US as a sponsor of terrorism, has ratcheted up tensions considerably.