Skip to main content

Iran advances diplomacy with Switzerland, India as US maintains 'maximum pressure'

In yet another diplomatic push to ease mounting pressure from the United States, Iranian officials were busy hosting two visiting foreign ministers to talk solutions for economic relief.

​From behind a red strip of tape to ensure coronavirus-related social distancing, placed on a handmade Persian carpet in Iran’s presidential palace, Switzerland’s Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis greeted President Hassan Rouhani for a meeting that marked 100 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

“The path is open for America to return to the JCPOA,” Rouhani said, in reference to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, widely known as the Iran nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump shredded in 2018. “We expect the friendly and free countries of the world not to resort to silence,” the Iranian president added, as he once again criticized the US economic pressure, which officials in Tehran have repeatedly lamented as “terrorism” or “economic warfare."

The immense pressure, Iran complains, is targeting its civilian population and their livelihoods. And to bypass it, the Islamic Republic has been exhausting multiple solutions, one of which is the “Swiss humanitarian channel,” officially launched in January with the aim of facilitating Iranian payments for the imports of much-needed medicines and food into the sanctions-hit country.

Rouhani called for a boost in the channel’s activity by the Swiss government, which protects Iranian and American interests on the soils of the two countries in the absence of formal diplomatic relations between the two archenemies. In a veiled mention of the same transaction corridor, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also expressed gratitude for Switzerland’s efforts “to mitigate US sabotage.”

But not all statements were diplomatic niceties and compliments for the Swiss foreign minister, who was earlier seen visiting monuments in the central city of Isfahan, where he lauded Iran as the “pearl of the Middle East." The ultraconservative paper Javan appeared to downplay the traditional peace-brokering role the Swiss take pride in. “The powerless mediator,” the paper wrote, “simply plays no role beyond that of a gentle courier in charge of delivering messages.”

In recent days, speculation was rife in Iranian media that the Swiss foreign minister was on a mission to initiate a mediation process between Tehran and Washington. Iranian officials, however, have denied the theory, saying the visit had been planned a long time ago only to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Iran’s Zarif also hosted his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in Tehran, where the two sides — according to Zarif — exchanged views on “bilateral ties and important regional developments."

Under the US “maximum pressure” policy that aims to squeeze the Iranian economy, Tehran has been looking to New Delhi as one important savior. While Iranian crude sales to the world’s second-most populous nation have not been steady enough to satisfy the Islamic Republic, New Delhi’s $500 million investment in Iran’s southeastern strategic port of Chabahar continues to shape Indo-Iranian economic relations. Despite Tehran’s complaints about delays from the Indian side, the megaproject remains one of the few trade areas waived in the US sanctions regime, allowing New Delhi to pursue its business there without having to bite nails over Trump administration penalties.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial