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Germany asks Switzerland to sell it Leopard II tanks

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Germany has asked Switzerland to sell it some of its mothballed Leopard II tanks, Swiss newspaper Blick reported on Friday, a deal that could allow Berlin to increase its military aid to Ukraine.

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Germany wants Switzerland to sell some of the tanks back to manufacturer Rheinmetall, the paper said, which would allow the company to backfill gaps in the armaments of European Union and NATO members.

Germany, Poland, Portugal, Finland, and Sweden are among countries sending Leopard tanks to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian attack, creating gaps in their own arsenals.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and Economics Minister Robert Habeck informed Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd about the project in a letter dated Feb. 23, the paper said.

They asked their Swiss counterpart to agree the sale, with assurances the Swiss tanks would not be transferred to Ukraine itself.

Under its neutrality laws and a separate arms embargo, Switzerland is prohibited from sending weapons directly to Ukraine. A deal with Germany would require the Swiss parliament to formally declare the mothballed tanks to be out of service, the paper said.

The Swiss Defense Ministry said Germany’s request was being considered.

“From the army’s point of view it would be possible in principle to do without a small number of tanks - while taking into account Switzerland’s own requirements,” the spokesman told the newspaper.

A spokesperson for the defense ministry in Berlin said he was not immediately able to comment.

Bern has previously blocked requests from Germany, Spain, and Denmark to allow Swiss-made munitions they have previously bought to be re-exported to Ukraine.

But the issue is becoming increasingly divisive in Switzerland, with a pro-Ukraine shift in the public and political mood putting pressure on the government to end a ban on exports of Swiss weapons to war zones.

Calls from Switzerland’s European neighbors to allow such transfers to Kyiv have meanwhile grown louder as Russia’s assault intensifies, and parliament’s two security committees have recommended that the rules be eased accordingly.

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