Domestic Economy

Swiss Envoy: Invest in Iran, Mideast’s “Pole of Stability”

Swiss Envoy: Invest in Iran, Mideast’s “Pole of Stability”Swiss Envoy: Invest in Iran, Mideast’s “Pole of Stability”

Switzerland's ambassador on Thursday called Iran a "pole of stability" in the Middle East and urged companies to make the most of a lucrative market about to re-open after years of crippling sanctions.

Ambassador Giulio Haas was addressing 500 Swiss business people in Zurich as Europeans race back to Iran, whose markets and oil will be much easier to tap once sanctions are lifted, under a global deal struck last month, Reuters reported.

"Iran at the moment is most probably the pole of stability in a very, very unsafe region," he told the conference.

Britain reopened its embassy in Tehran on Sunday, catching up with rival European powers that have rushed to tell Iran their companies are ready to restart business. France's foreign minister visited Tehran just two weeks after the nuclear deal was agreed on July 14.

Iran's financial system should escape crippling restrictions next year, leaving foreign companies contemplating 80 million consumers, $35 trillion worth of petroleum reserves and deep infrastructure needs.

Companies including engineering group ABB Ltd bank UBS and agriculture equipment maker Bucher Industries AG attended the event in a Zurich hotel hosted by a Swiss export-promotion group.

Swiss exports to Iran have fallen more than half to less than 400 million Swiss francs ($415 million) since 2008 as tightened UN and EU sanctions forced many companies to cut ties with the country.

"It's very important for us that the stream of money in Iran reopens," said Christian Wuerzer, managing director at insurer SwissCare, whose products cover expatriates and diplomats.

Marzban Mortaz, director of a Tehran-based juice and milk packager, said access to Swiss financiers is essential if the country's economy is to double or triple post sanctions.

"With that size of economy, everyone has expansion plans," he said. "Companies in Iran are cash-strapped."

The speakers described Iran as a "virgin market" of sophisticated consumers ready for business with the West.