Swiss MPs reject allowing arms transfers to Ukraine

Swiss MPs reject allowing arms transfers to Ukraine
Pedestrians pull their luggage in front of the Swiss House of Parliament in Bern on August 15, 2022. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland's lower house of parliament on Thursday voted against a proposal that would have specifically authorised the transfer of Swiss-made arms to Ukraine.


The vote in parliament came as Swiss President Alain Berset met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the European Political Community summit in Moldova, where the pair discussed the subject of exports of war material.

The National Council in Bern voted 98-75 against a parliamentary initiative put forward by a committee.

Jean-Luc Addor, of the populist, right-wing Swiss People's Party -- the largest in the National Council -- said in the Council that "accepting this initiative means committing to one of the protagonists, which is also in its very title ("Lex Ukraine"). Therefore violating neutrality."

Switzerland's long-standing position has been one of well-armed military neutrality and the landlocked country of 8.8 million people has mandatory conscription for men.

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

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 countries including 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.

At the summit in Moldova, Kyiv and Chisinau pressed European leaders for more support against Russian aggression.

Berset said on Twitter that he had a "productive meeting with Zelensky about the situation on the ground, Swiss humanitarian aid and reconstruction".


Swiss national broadcaster RTS said the meeting lasted for 25 minutes.

They also discussed blocked assets, Switzerland's role in mine clearance, and the country's position on re-exporting arms, Berset told RTS.

"I believe that the position and the role of Switzerland are very well understood by the Ukrainians," Berset said, adding that he was ready to go to Ukraine at any time.

"We are applying our law. We have shown from the start that we were not indifferent to what was happening, we were strongly committed alongside Ukraine.

"Today, the most important thing is to be united, not to tolerate what is happening in eastern Ukraine and that one country is marching on another."


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