Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Switzerland

Newsline: Iran summons Swiss ambassador

Iranian foreign ministry summoned Swiss ambassador over what Tehran viewed as anti-executions tweet. (https://tv.guardian.ng/news/world-news/iran-summons-swiss-ambassador-over-anti-executions-tweet/) The Swiss embassy has sparked Iran’s anger by decrying executions of Iranian protesters on Twitter. Tehran said the tweet also showed “a fake flag” of pre-revolutionary Iran.

Newsline: Iraq condemns attack on its embassy in Switzerland

Iraq has condemned an attack on its embassy in Switzerland. A Foreign Ministry statement said the embassy building in the capital Bern came under “an unprecedented” attack by unknown individuals “who forcibly entered the building, causing fear and panic” among staff and citizens. The statement, however, did not specify the date of the attack. There were no reports of injuries. “We renew our condemnation of this act and all forms of violence and vandalism targeting diplomatic missions, particularly those violating their security and sanctity,” it added. (https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/iraq-condemns-attack-on-its-embassy-in-switzerland/2907142) The ministry called on the Swiss authorities to take all necessary measures to identify the perpetrators and clarify the circumstances of the attack. There was no comment from the Swiss authorities on the incident.

Newsline: Four Filipinas sue Pakistani diplomat employers in Switzerland for slavery

On the morning of her court hearing, Virginia woke up with cold clammy hands and feet, gasping for air. She was having another panic attack. “Never in my life did I imagine that I would find myself in a courtroom facing lawyers in a foreign country,” the 46-year-old Filipina told Al Jazeera. Virginia filed a case against her diplomat employers at the Pakistan Mission in Geneva, Switzerland, alleging she had been unpaid for more than 20 years. The contract, which she signed in the Philippines in 1999, indicated a monthly salary of 1,200 Swiss francs ($1,329) for a 40-hour week, along with board and lodging as well as health insurance. Virginia, then a 22-year-old mother of two, found out after arriving in Geneva that she was expected to work for the Pakistan Mission three times a week without a salary. It would be up to her to find other jobs to have enough money to live on. The sponsorship of her visa demanded her compliance and her silence. Virginia and three other Filipina domestic workers are suing the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations in Switzerland, claiming compensation for unpaid wages and other damages. Evidence and testimony gathered from 2021 supported the allegations of violations of Swiss labour law, threats, coercion, exploitation and human trafficking. The Swiss Mission, which oversees issuing visa permits to domestic workers in diplomatic households and monitors compliance with employee contracts, confirmed that the case was currently being investigated. “Switzerland does not tolerate any abuse of the working conditions of private household employees in the diplomatic context,” said Paola Ceresetti, spokesperson for the Swiss Mission. In an email, the Pakistani Mission in Geneva told Al Jazeera they do not comment on cases pending resolution, but said: “The Mission takes its obligations under the applicable international law and local regulations very seriously.” (https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2023/5/24/four-filipinas-sue-diplomat-employers-in-switzerland-for-slavery) The Swiss Mission has suspended issuing visas for domestic workers employed under the Pakistan Mission until the dispute is settled.

Newsline: Iran summons Switzerland’s ambassador

Iran’s foreign ministry has summoned Switzerland’s envoy in Tehran for a social media post showing Iranian protest icon Mahsa Amini, local reports said on Sunday. A website affiliated with Iran’s state television called YJC.ir reported that the Swiss ambassador, Nadine Lozano, was summoned after a Twitter account affiliated with the embassy in Tehran published a photo featuring Amini. (https://news.yahoo.com/iranian-media-says-tehran-summons-142725962.html) The Twitter account linked with the Swiss embassy in Tehran also posted an image of Iran’s pre-revolutionary flag before its current theocracy came to power. The post added that the Swiss foreign ministry strongly condemned the recent execution of three Iranian protesters. Months of anti-government protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Amini in September, after Iranian morality police detained her for allegedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress code.

Newsline: Swiss ambassador describes narrow escape from Sudan

A Swiss envoy described a narrow escape during a French-assisted evacuation mission from Sudan, with air strikes shaking an evacuation bus carrying diplomats to a military base. “The evacuation was quite a difficult exercise because the fighting continued even during the evacuation,” Ambassador Christian Winter told reporters on the tarmac in front of the Swiss army plane that flew them home from Djibouti. “We heard shooting, even jets that bombed a few neighbourhoods near to where we were passing. We heard it and even the bus was trembling. It showed that it was close and dangerous.” (https://neuters.de/world/swiss-envoy-describes-how-bus-trembled-narrow-escape-sudan-2023-04-25/) Switzerland has already shut its embassy and evacuated all Swiss staff and their families over the past few days. The Swiss Foreign Ministry said a total of seven staff and five accompanying persons were evacuated. Local embassy staff were not evacuated with the Swiss, Winter said. “What is weighing heavily on our minds is what is happening to our local colleagues,” he said. Unlike in Afghanistan where Switzerland evacuated a total of 230 Afghans in 2021, the criteria for extracting locals had not been met in Sudan, a Swiss foreign affairs ministry spokesperson said. He added that Bern continued to provide them with support.

Newsline: Diplomats from 200 nations meet in Switzerland to discuss Climate Change’s report

Diplomats from nearly 200 nations and top climate scientists began a week-long huddle in Switzerland on Monday to distil nearly a decade of published science into a 20-odd-page warning about the existential danger of global warming and what to do about it. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s synthesis report — to be released on March 20 — will detail observed and projected changes in Earth’s climate system; past and future impacts such as devastating heatwaves, flooding and rising seas; and ways to halt the carbon pollution pushing Earth toward an unliveable state. “It’s a massive moment, seven years since the Paris Agreement and nine years since the last IPCC assessment report,” Greenpeace Nordic senior policy advisor Kaisa Kosonen, an official observer at IPCC meetings, told AFP. (https://news.yahoo.com/governments-vet-crucial-un-climate-105326400.html) Since its creation in 1988, the IPCC — an intergovernmental body staffed by hundreds of scientists who work for it on a volunteer basis — has released six three-part assessments, the most recent in 2021-2022.

Newsline: Global Conference on Bioweapons Faces Risks Related to Russia and Ukraine

Hundreds of diplomats and health security experts are gathering in Geneva to grapple with the increasing risk that viruses, bacteria and other pathogens could be used as weapons. But Russia’s presence threatens to undercut their efforts. Russia’s campaign alleging that the US has supported secret biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine is likely to undermine negotiations at a conference geared toward strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention, the first global disarmament treaty that sought to ban an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-ukraine-claims-risk-thwarting-050100451.html) For the first time in six years, representatives from the US, Russia, China and other countries are gathering at Geneva’s Palais des Nations starting Monday to review the treaty, which is seen as lacking the geopolitical and scientific muscle needed to verify whether nations have violated it. But health security experts say they fear that Russia will use the three-week conference as a platform to again peddle contentions intended to sow distrust in the US and Ukraine.

Newsline: Chinese Ambassador Warns Switzerland Against Sanctions

Switzerland should avoid following the European Union by imposing sanctions on China if it cares about Swiss-Sino relations, the Chinese ambassador to Bern told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper. “Anyone who really cares about the friendly relations between the two countries and who makes responsible policy will not agree to the sanctions,” China’s ambassador in Bern, Wang Shihting, told the NZZ am Sonntag. “If Switzerland adopts the sanctions and the situation develops in an uncontrolled direction, Sino-Swiss relations will suffer,” he added. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-11-06/chinese-ambassador-warns-swiss-sanction-us-and-ties-will-suffer) The head of the Swiss agency that implements economic sanctions said in a newspaper interview in July she expects the neutral country to adopt any punitive measures the EU launches against China if it invades Taiwan. Last year, the EU imposed its first sanctions against Beijing since an arms embargo in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Switzerland has not yet decided to follow the EU’s lead.

Newsline: Swiss police used rubber bullets against protesters at Iranian embassy in Bern

Swiss police used rubber bullets to disperse protesters in front of the Iranian Embassy in Bern after two men climbed over the embassy’s fence and pulled down the Iranian flag from a flagpole in the yard. Police said late Saturday that nobody was injured and that the “large crowd” of protesters was dispersed after the use of rubber bullets. The two protesters who entered the embassy’s grounds were detained, according to police in the Swiss capital. (https://www.daytondailynews.com/nation-world/swiss-police-violently-disperse-anti-iranian-protests/) Police said they used rubber bullets after several other protesters at the unauthorized demonstration tried following the two men who had first entered the embassy’s yard and also attempted to access the premises. It wasn’t immediately clear if more protesters were detained. Outside of Iran, thousands of protesters have also staged demonstrations in European countries and expressed anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in the Islamic Republic.

Newsline: Switzerland summons China’s ambassador

Switzerland has summoned the Chinese ambassador to express concern about the human rights situation in the western region of Xinjiang, the foreign ministry in Bern said on Thursday. “Switzerland is convinced that the best way to safeguard its interests and the respect of fundamental rights is to conduct a critical and constructive dialogue with Beijing,” the ministry said, confirming a report by the SDA news agency. (https://news.yahoo.com/swiss-summon-chinese-ambassador-press-072938280.html) The ministry cited a report last week by the United Nations human rights commissioner that China’s “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity. China’s foreign ministry has denied the allegations and described the U.N. report as “completely illegal and void”. The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Neutral Switzerland has walked a diplomatic tightrope with Beijing, playing down prospects for embracing Western sanctions against China over its human rights record as Bern pursues a “special path” with a major trade partner.