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Swiss MPs urge allowing arms transfers to Ukraine under strict conditions

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Swiss MPs urge allowing arms transfers to Ukraine under strict conditions
A man waves a Ukrainian flag in front of the Swiss House of Parliament during a national demonstration for peace and against the war in Ukraine on April 2, 2022. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

The lower house of the Swiss parliament this week narrowly voted to back allowing the transfer of Swiss-made arms to Ukraine - but only under conditions extremely unlikely to materialise.

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The National Council voted with 98 votes in favour, 96 against and two abstentions to push the government to allow the re-export of Swiss weaponry to Ukraine - currently banned under the country's strict military neutrality laws.

The motion called for waiving the no re-export clauses of countries wishing to transfer Swiss-made arms to Ukrainian forces, but only if the United Nations Security Council first declares Russia's war there illegal.

With Russia wielding veto powers on the Security Council, that is a very unlikely scenario.

The issue of Switzerland's long tradition of neutrality has been hotly debated since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

READ ALSO: Swiss president opposes arms experts to Ukraine - citing neutrality

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

Despite pressure from Kyiv and its allies, Switzerland has so far refused to allow countries that hold Swiss-made weaponry to re-export it to Ukraine.

To date, it has rejected explicit requests from Germany, Spain and Denmark, pointing to its War Materiel Act, which bars all re-export if the recipient
country is in an international armed conflict.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland's neutrality has always been 'malleable'

Wednesday's lower house vote was on just one of a range of initiatives under way in parliament towards relaxing the re-export rules to make it possible for Swiss-made weaponry to be transferred by third countries to Ukraine.

Wednesday's decision will still need to be approved in the upper house, the Council of States, which on Monday rejected a separate initiative that would have permitted the re-export of arms to specific democracies.

The process towards a final decision, with back and forth debates between the chambers and the government, followed by a probable referendum under Switzerland's direct democracy system, is likely to take months.

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