Switzerland to Reopen Embassy in Iraq
Switzerland decided Wednesday to reopen its embassy in Baghdad which was closed a few days before the start of the 1991 Gulf war but it will not yet appoint an ambassador to Iraq.
Two diplomats will be dispatched to the embassy to oversee humanitarian aid, provide for Swiss economic interests in Iraq and issue visas, said the ministry in a statement.
The January 12, 1991 closure of the embassy "led to a lack of first-hand information on Iraq including on the humanitarian situation and on human rights," said the ministry.
The foreign ministry described Iraq as a "key country in the region" and emphasized that it wanted to ensure a presence in Baghdad to better represent its business interests in the country and also to raise issues of human rights and regional stability.
But a new ambassador will not be appointed just yet, said Foreign Minister Joseph Deiss following a meeting of the council ministers who decided to reopen the embassy.
Switzerland never severed diplomatic relations with Baghdad during the Gulf War and was not part of the US-led coalition that defeated Iraqi forces following the 1991 invasion of Kuwait.
Local Iraqi employees were asked to ensure the upkeep
Bern has provided four million Swiss francs (2.2 million dollars) in humanitarian aid to Iraq through various organizations such as the Red Cross and the World Food Program.
Several Swiss firms are currently working in Iraq under the UN "oil for food" program, which provides for sales of oil to pay for humanitarian supplies.
But the ministry said these firms are "at a disadvantage against competitors, notably European, many of whom have active embassies in place" in Iraq – BERN (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)