Kurdish office in Geneva causes diplomatic headache

A convoy of militiamen loyal to the Syrian government on their way to aid the Kurds against Turkish forces, in the northern Syrian city of Afrin, in 2018. Keystone

Switzerland has come under pressure from Syria and Turkey after Syrian Kurds opened a “representation office” in Geneva. Damascus has sent a letter of protest to Bern, and in Ankara the Swiss embassy’s chief of mission has been summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry.

This content was published on September 1, 2021 - 14:45

The Swiss foreign ministry on Wednesday confirmed a corresponding reportExternal link by Swiss public radio, SRF.

The office in the city of Geneva is not an official representation but an association called “the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria”, the foreign ministry wrote in response to a query from the Keystone-SDA news agency. In Switzerland associations can be founded freely and without a permit, the ministry added.

The foreign ministry stressed that Switzerland recognised Syria’s territorial integrity. It pointed out, however, that this currently existed only on paper, as the regime in Damascus does not control the entire country: parts in the north and north-east on the border with Turkey are run by Islamists and Kurds.

Political solution

The foreign ministry went on to say that Switzerland is engaged throughout Syria, regardless of conflict lines, in accordance with humanitarian principles and based on the needs of the affected population, especially women and children.

Since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011 to keep President Bashar al-Assad and his clan in power, Switzerland has provided more than CHF550 million ($600 million), according to the foreign ministry. This is Switzerland’s largest humanitarian commitment to date, it said.

The ministry also said that Switzerland supported a political solution to the crisis in Syria within the framework of the UN peace process in Geneva.

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