Switzerland should allow re-export of arms to Ukraine -Kyiv envoy

Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine's ambassador to Switzerland, speaks to Reuters about Kyiv's efforts to convince Swiss authorities to re-export weapons to Ukraine in Bern, Switzerland March 27, 2023. REUTERS/Cecile Mantovani

BERN (Reuters) - The Swiss foreign policy tradition of neutrality should not include blocking re-exports of Swiss weapons to Ukraine, the Ukrainian ambassador to Switzerland said on Monday, adding the weapons were urgently needed to win the war against Russia.

Switzerland's government said this month it would not change its long-standing policy of banning any country that buys Swiss arms from sending them to the party of a conflict.

Speaking to Reuters at the Ukrainian embassy in Bern, Iryna Venediktova said neutrality and the re-export of arms to Ukraine should be viewed as separate issues.

"I respect Swiss neutrality because it is a pillar of the Swiss state," she said. "But every day I stress that neutrality and re-export are two absolutely different terms."

The issue has sparked extensive debate in Switzerland, which has had to cope with pressure from its European partners and its weapons industry while adhering to its foreign policy ideals.

"We don't ask, 'Give your weapons to us directly.' We just ask not to block (re-exports)... not to contribute to this crime of aggression," Venediktova said.

"The whole world is watching, and the whole world expects a fair position, nothing more than a fair position."

Switzerland has denied requests from Germany, Denmark and Spain to re-export Swiss war materiel to Ukraine. Switzerland, however, has adopted the European Union's sanctions against Russia over the invasion, which it has repeatedly condemned.

An opinion poll published by the Sotomo Institute in Zurich in late January found that 55% of respondents favoured re-exporting Swiss-made war materiel to Ukraine.

Venediktova said she expected Switzerland to change its position very soon as support for the re-export of Swiss arms to her country increases.

"We need these weapons and ammunition as fast as possible," she said. "It is a question of survival of our people, our nation, our state."

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Josie Kao)

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