Switzerland is to represent the interests of the United States in Venezuela, under a “good offices” agreement between the two countries.
However, implementation still depends on Venezuela’s approval, according to a Swiss government statement.external link
The agreement was signed in Bern on Friday by Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis and the US ambassador to Switzerland Edward McMullen.
This representation of interests concerns mainly consular services for US citizens in Venezuela, according to the statement. If Venezuela accepts, Switzerland's “protecting power” mandate will be implemented.
Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with the US after it recognized the opposition leader as president.
The mandate “offers Switzerland the opportunity to contribute to the de-escalation of tensions between the two countries and thus play a constructive role for regional stability”, according to the Swiss government.
Cassis discussed such a mandate in meetings with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the national security advisor John Bolton, and in mid-March the US government officially asked Switzerland to assume this protective power mandate in Venezuela.
A long tradition
Switzerland has a long tradition of “good offices”, whereby it covers partial consular services and sometimes also diplomatic tasks for countries that have broken off relations, if they so request. It currently holds six such mandates, representing the US in Iran, Russia in Georgia, Georgia in Russia, Iran in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia in Iran, and Iran in Egypt. Until 2015, Switzerland also represented US interests in Cuba and vice versa.
Venezuela is facing a constitutional crisis against a background of social unrest, economic and humanitarian crisis.
In January, opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president, arguing that Nicolas Maduro's re-election last year was a sham.
Most Western countries have recognized him as legitimate head of state, but Maduro still has the backing of Russia and China, as well as control of state institutions. Switzerland has not recognized him, saying that it recognizes states, not governments.
Relations between the US and Venezuela deteriorated sharply after the US tightened the economic screws on the Maduro regime and recognized Guaido as the intrim president.