Swiss-Kuwaiti ties have grown since the end of the Gulf War in 1990. Today, bilateral relations focus on peace and security policy, sustainable development and economic affairs. Kuwait is a key market for the Swiss business sector and there are a number of agreements that regulate relations between the two countries.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Kuwait
On 14 October 2020 the Federal Council adopted a specific strategy for the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA Strategy) for the 2021 – 2024 period. It identifies five thematic priorities: peace, security and human rights; migration and protection of people in need; sustainable development; economic affairs, finance, science; as well as digitalization and new technologies.
These priorities are weighted differently across the various regions and countries. In the Arabian Peninsula and Iran, priority thematic areas for Switzerland are regional stability and security, economic and financial cooperation, and sustainable natural resource management.
Switzerland also wishes to support the Gulf countries in their efforts to professionalize their international cooperation, especially with regard to South-South cooperation and compliance with international development standards in the areas of climate change, health and water management.
Switzerland's priorities in Kuwait
The MENA Strategy 2021 – 2024 identifies the following priorities for Switzerland in Kuwait:
Peace, security and human rights
Switzerland is stepping up discussions on peace and security. It initiates discussions with the ICRC's regional office in Kuwait to promote international humanitarian law in the Gulf region.
In particular, Switzerland fosters discussion with Kuwait on donor country best practices in order to ensure that development funds are dispersed in accordance with international standards.
Market access and economic opportunities
Switzerland works with Swiss private-sector companies to seize the opportunities opened up by Kuwait's economic reforms. Switzerland is working to promote mutual investment.
Since the oil boom of the 1970s Kuwait has been an important market for goods and services supplied by Swiss companies, whose know-how in industry and technology have in turn helped implement a number of major infrastructure projects in Kuwait.
In 2000 two agreements on investment protection and double taxation came into force. In 2010 a bilateral air transport agreement from 1968 was updated. A free trade agreement between EFTA and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states entered into force in 2014.
Other areas of cooperation
Education, training, research and innovation
Researchers and artists who are citizens of Kuwait can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. Furthermore, SERI has designated the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO) as the Leading House for the Middle East and North Africa and commissioned it to develop scientific collaboration partnerships between Switzerland and the countries of the MENA region.
Switzerland regularly participates in events to promote the French language as part of the International Day of La Francophonie and the Italian culture week (Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo). It also organizes various cultural events.
Swiss nationals in Kuwait
In 2022, there were 83 Swiss citizens living in Kuwait.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland officially recognised Kuwait as an independent state in 1961. In 1966, a Swiss ambassador was accredited to Kuwait (based at that time in Beirut) and a Kuwaiti consulate was opened in Geneva, making 2016 an occasion for both countries to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic and consular relations.
The welcome extended to Kuwaiti tourists during the Gulf war in 1990, when they were permitted to extend their stay in Switzerland until the crisis was over, contributed greatly to the close bilateral relations that exist between the two countries. Switzerland has long been popular with Kuwaitis, both as a holiday destination and a place of study.
In August 2016 First Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah took part in the celebrations in Bern to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic and consular relations. The visit of President of the Swiss Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann in the same year further cemented relations.
A memorandum of understanding on development cooperation and humanitarian aid was also signed in 2016.