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Swiss Jewish leader calls gov't to impose Iran sanctions
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
04/24/2012
Switzerland has not fully implemented the EU package of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
 
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 approach.”

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.”

However, the 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 crude oil.

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 said.

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 sanctions.”

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,” she wrote.

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 program.”

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 be taken.”

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.”

Cordial economic 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 resolutions.”

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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