Lebanon is an important partner for Switzerland in the Middle East. Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Lebanon have traditionally been excellent and have been scaled up considerably in the last two years. In August 2018, the then President of the Swiss Confederation, Alain Berset, made a presidential visit to Lebanon.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Lebanon
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
A memorandum of understanding on regular political consultations between Switzerland and Lebanon has been in place since 2016. Given the situation in Lebanon and the regional context, Switzerland is particularly active in the field of humanitarian aid.
Following an agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Lebanon, Switzerland and Lebanon launched a bilateral economic cooperation programme to strengthen Lebanon's economic standards and improve the quality of Lebanese exports.
Switzerland mainly exports precious stones and metals, jewellery and pharmaceutical products to Lebanon. It mainly imports precious stones and metals, jewellery and watch-making products from Lebanon.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Swiss and Lebanese higher education institutions have entered into a variety of partnerships and cooperation agreements covering a wide range of areas such as engineering, hotel management and hospital care. Switzerland is a particularly popular study destination for Lebanese students.
Researchers and artists from Lebanon may apply to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Peace promotion and human security
Switzerland is committed to democratisation and peaceful coexistence. To this end, it supports reform processes with the government and works closely with civil society organisations and human rights defenders. Concrete results include the adoption of national strategies to prevent violent extremism and measures for peaceful coexistence between host and refugee communities in Lebanon. Switzerland is also committed to the independence of the judiciary, reform of the security sector and dealing with the past.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The regional cooperation strategy for the Middle East, which focuses on addressing the effects of the Syrian crisis, provides the framework for Switzerland's engagement in the coming years. Since the outbreak of the crisis in Syria in 2011, Switzerland has provided over CHF 438 million for humanitarian aid and to strengthen the resilience of people in need (status: end of 2019). Half of the funds have been allocated to support and protect the affected persons in Syria and half to assist the neighbouring countries Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, which have taken in the majority of Syrian refugees.
The shared French language is a vehicle for lively cultural exchanges between Switzerland and Lebanon. Switzerland takes part in Beirut's annual Francophone Book Fair and Francophonie festival. It also promotes exchanges between visual artists and musicians from both countries and takes part in the European Film Festival in Lebanon each year.
Swiss nationals in Lebanon
At the end of 2018, over 1,500 Swiss nationals were living in Lebanon, most of whom were dual citizens.
History of bilateral relations
The State of Greater Lebanon was founded in 1920 under the French mandate. Lebanon gained independence in 1943. Switzerland opened a consulate in Beirut in 1934, which was converted into a legation in 1950 and into an embassy in 1958.
Since 1948 Switzerland has provided assistance to Palestinian refugees and other victims of violence in the region through the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Although the Swiss Embassy was temporarily closed several times during the civil war (notably in 1988 and reopened in 1995),
Switzerland offered its good offices during this period and provided active support for the Lebanese Conference of National Reconciliation, which was held in Geneva in 1983 and reconvened in Lausanne in 1984.