The Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), a payment mechanism to enable humanitarian goods to be delivered to Iran, has started trial operations and is about to be implemented, the Swiss government said on Thursday.

SHTA seeks to ensure that Swiss-based exporters and trading companies in the food, pharmaceutical and medical sectors have a secure payment channel with a Swiss bank through which payments for their exports to Iran are guaranteed, a government statement said. On 27 January, an initial payment for the shipment of medicines to Iran was approved in the form of a trial run, according to the statement.

The project kicked off with an initial payment for a shipment to Iran of cancer drugs and drugs required for organ transplants worth 2.3 million euros.

Geneva-based bank BCP and drugmaker Novartis took part in the pilot deal, with the humanitarian channel expected to be fully operational within weeks, a spokeswoman for the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs said to Reuters.

The SHTA was developed by Switzerland in close cooperation with the relevant authorities in the USA and Iran, as well as with selected Swiss banks and companies. According to the swiss government statement published on Thursday, under the SHTA, the US Department of the Treasury will provide the banks involved with the necessary assurances that the financial transactions can be processed in accordance with US legislation. In return, exporters and banks participating in the SHTA will provide SECO (The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs) with detailed information about their business activities and business partners in Iran, and the transactions they carry out. SECO will verify this information and, in cooperation with the US Treasury Department, ensure that increased due diligence has been exercised in respect of the transactions carried out. To this end, SECO will also make the information received from the banks and exporters available to the US Treasury Department.