BERLIN – The Swiss government’s decision last week not to fall in line with the
full implementation of EU and US sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and oil
trade prompted tough words from the general secretary of Switzerland’s Jewish
community on Monday.
Jonathan Kreutner, general secretary of the 18,000-
member community, told The Jerusalem Post
, “We regret the attitude of
Switzerland, which once again stands in contrast to the policies of other
Western states. Especially at a time in which Western states are seeking to
oppose the Iranian nuclear threat through intensified economic sanctions, we
find Switzerland’s actions worrisome. We expect Switzerland to join the EU’s
The Swiss government announced its sanctions package last
week, saying, “This means that the assets of 11 further Iranian nationals and
companies will be frozen. The move brings Switzerland largely in line with the
restrictive measures adopted by the EU on 23 January 2012.”
Swiss sanctions contain major loopholes, including failing to penalize Iran’s
main financial conduit for its oil and gas trade, the Central Bank of Iran
(CBI), as well as measures to stop Swiss importation and trade involving Iranian
In an email to the Post
on Monday, Marie Avet, a spokeswoman
for the Swiss Economics Ministry, wrote that the ministry had read and taken
notice of the statement by the country’s Jewish community (SIG), but would not
comment on it.
“It is the right of every organization to assess following
its guidelines the resolutions of the Bundesrat [the Swiss governmental body],”
She added that “with the Bundesrat resolution from April 4,
2012, Switzerland partially adopted the EU sanctions from January 23, 2012,” and
that “the assets of 11 Iranian individuals and companies were frozen, including
Bank Tejarat. The Iranian central bank was the exception to the EU rules because
of its meaning for the Iranian economy and was not placed under
She noted that in terms of the expanded EU sanctions in the
oil sector, the Bundesrat had not issued a decision.
“The Bundesrat will
decide at a later point about a possible adoption of the sanctions measures,”
The central European country is not a member of the 27-member
EU, but has, after considerable pressure from the US and the EU, adopted
previous international sanctions against Iran. According to critics, the Swiss
are considered the weakest link in the sanctions chain.
In a telephone
conversation with the Post on Monday, a representative of Israel’s embassy in
Bern conveyed a statement from ambassador ad interim (chargé d’affaires) Shalom
Cohen, who said, “We are encouraged by the Swiss efforts to be in line with the
international community concerning sanctions against Iran to stop Iran’s nuclear
The embassy declined to comment on the absence of Swiss
sanctions on the CBI and oil trade.
Switzerland represents US diplomatic
interests in Iran since 1981. The US and Iran have not maintained diplomatic
relations since 1980, following the Islamic Revolution.
Alex Daniels, a
press spokesman at the US Embassy in Bern, told the Post on Monday, “We continue
to work with the international community on keeping pressure on Iran, and we are
consulting with governments, including Switzerland, on further measures that can
He added that the US has “a strong bilateral relationship with
Switzerland and maintain a wide-ranging dialogue with the government of
Switzerland on a variety of issues of mutual interest.”
relations between Bern and Tehran have ruffled diplomatic feathers over the
years. The massive 18 billion- 22b.-euro Swiss EGL gas deal with the National
Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC) prompted rebuke from the Israelis and
Americans in 2008 and 2010.
The US Embassy in Bern said, “As we noted in
the past when this deal was first announced, oil and gas deals with Iran send
the wrong message when Iran continues to defy UN Security Council
Anne Bayefsky, a prominent UN legal expert and director of
the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, told the Post,
“Switzerland is building for itself the unenviable reputation of having cordial
relationships with the advocates of genocide, and anti-Semitism in particular.
Welcoming [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad at the highest levels,
embracing the second racist Durban conference, hosting Hamas terror
representatives, and much more, evidence a clear and shameful pattern which fits
with its latest unfortunate behavior towards Iran.”
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