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Swiss President opposes arms exports to Ukraine, citing neutrality

Mar 8, 2023

Swiss President Alain Berset has said that his country continues to oppose arms exports to war-torn Ukraine.

He said this on Tuesday on the sidelines of meetings at the United Nations, AFP reports.

Switzerland bans the re-export of Swiss weapons to countries at war, but the issue of the country's long tradition of neutrality has been discussed since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine a little over a year ago.

"The discussion about exporting weapons, armaments... as long as we have (our) legal framework in Switzerland, it is not possible," said Berset, who is currently serving a one-year rotating term as president.
"For the government and for the Federal Council, we have to, and we want to, maintain this legal framework and work within this legal framework," he said.

His comments came after Berlin appealed to Switzerland in late February to allow German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall to purchase old Swiss Leopard tanks, ensuring that they would not be transferred to Ukraine.

While the wealthy Alpine country, which is not a member of the European Union, is following the bloc's lead in sanctioning Moscow, it has so far shown less flexibility in its military neutrality.

"These sanctions are absolutely compatible with neutrality," Berset said.

Despite pressure from Kyiv and its allies, Switzerland has so far refused to allow countries that own Swiss-made weapons to re-export them to Ukraine and has so far rejected direct requests from Germany, Spain, and Denmark.

Several initiatives aimed at relaxing re-export rules are being considered in parliament, but it will likely take months before any decision is made.

Author - Olena Madiak, 08/03/2023

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