Swiss Exploring Payment Channel for Iran Humanitarian Trade

(Bloomberg) -- Switzerland is looking for ways to facilitate humanitarian trade with Iran that’s been impeded by renewed U.S. sanctions on the Persian Gulf country.

“Switzerland is working on establishing a payment channel for the export of food, medicine and medical devices to Iran,” the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs said in a statement, adding that it’s “striving to make this channel operational as soon as possible.”

Switzerland, home to drugmakers Roche Holding AG and Novartis AG and food group Nestle SA, has been a partner of Iran in humanitarian trade. It has been negotiating with the U.S. to ensure food and drugs can still find their way to the Islamic Republic.

On paper, sanctions imposed after the U.S. withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May permit Iranian purchases of humanitarian goods medicines. To avoid accidentally triggering penalties, however, foreign drug companies and international banks are taking extra precautions even when dealing with permitted business. The new legal complications mean some drugs have been increasingly difficult to find in Iran, including medications for multiple sclerosis and medicine used in post-operative treatments for heart conditions.

The action being taken on humanitarian aid is separate from efforts by remaining signatories to the Iran nuclear deal to set up a mechanism meant to allow wider business with the Islamic Republic.

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