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Swiss Hail Biden’s Positive Approach to Speed Up Iran Financial Transfers

Swiss Hail Biden’s Positive Approach to Speed Up Iran Financial Transfers
Swiss Hail Biden’s Positive Approach to Speed Up Iran Financial Transfers

US President Joe Biden voiced support to speed up approval of the financial transfers needed to deliver more food and medicines to Iran through a Swiss humanitarian channel, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Cassis, speaking to a news conference after the 30-minute talks with Biden in Geneva, said: "The trouble is it hasn't been used enough, and why? Because there are transfers of funds that still require approval, and I think on this the US is willing to accelerate their decisions so that this channel can be used to its full effect."
The trade channel, known as the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), was designed to facilitate food and medicine trade with Iran.
It started trial operations in January 2020, helping supply Swiss goods to Iran without violating Donald Trump’s economic blockade against Iran. However, in essence it was a non-starter seemingly due to the US sanctions.
SHTA was created after the US Treasury Department granted waivers for using a portion of the Central Bank of Iran’s overseas resources to import basic goods and pharmaceuticals.
The BCP bank of Switzerland is reportedly authorized to handle SHTA transactions. Two Iranian banks are also involved, namely Saman Bank and the Middle East Bank. Only a trickle of deals has gone through so far.
Biden and Swiss President Guy Parmelin also discussed ongoing negotiations to revive a big power agreement on Iran's nuclear program that Washington ditched under former president Donald Trump, Cassis said.
"We talked about this nuclear agreement, about the intention of the United States to do everything it can to move things forward," he said. "The situation is very difficult at the moment, you know that (presidential) elections will be held in Iran very soon and I think one should not have too high expectations.
"However it is clear that the intention of this American administration is to try to find a new path, which won't be easy, because there has been a long history of feuds," he added.
Geneva hosts the first summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, including on nuclear security issues, with expectations low on both sides.
In the last round of banking sanctions in October 2020, the US government blacklisted 18 Iranian banks to totally cut off the country from the international financial system.
With Biden in office analysts are hopeful that the billions of dollars of Iranian money blocked in overseas banks will be freed.
Tehran has repeatedly expressed that it was unimpressed and also pessimistic about the Swiss payment channel, saying that there would indeed be no need for a (separate) license if export of humanitarian goods had been authorized.
Last year, President Hassan Rouhani urged Switzerland to improve the efficiency of the financial mechanism it has established for trade with Iran so that Tehran can unlock part of its frozen overseas assets.

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