Thursday’s vote comes with Switzerland’s traditional neutral stance already thrown into question by its imposition of sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
The National Council lower house of parliament voted by 125 to 56 to support the Security Council candidacy — a move that has consistently been opposed by the country’s largest party, the populist, right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP).
Switzerland looks set to join the Security Council for two years from 2023.
The wealthy Alpine nation and Malta are the only candidates for the two seats allocated to western Europe up for election in New York in June.
The Swiss government believes Security Council membership will strengthen the country’s international standing.
President Ignazio Cassis insisted that Switzerland’s neutrality was not at risk, the domestic ATS news agency reported.
“Our candidacy is in the interest of Switzerland as much as in that of the world,” he told lawmakers.
“A neutral state listening to minorities, we are always looking for compromise.
“As the saying goes: The absent are always in the wrong. You have to be at the table to take part.”
Some in Switzerland suggest that, in a Security Council vote on the use of force, even a Swiss abstention would, by definition, be taking a position.
The SVP maintained its vehement opposition to the plan.
“Entry to the Security Council would torpedo Swiss neutrality. It is an uncalculated risk for our country,” said lawmaker Roger Koppel, putting the party’s case to parliament. “A neutral ground is necessary to allow the parties to a conflict to speak to each other without arms.”
Switzerland has long been the site of diplomatic tete-a-tetes.
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit in Geneva last June. And Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart Antony Blinken held ultimately fruitless talks on Ukraine in Geneva on January 21.
The 1985 Geneva Summit brought together then-US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev for landmark talks on the Cold War-era arms race.
Koppel slammed Bern’s recent decision to adopt the neighbouring European Union’s sanctions on Russia, saying neutrality implied avoiding economic conflict.
Switzerland only joined the United Nations in 2002.