Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the Swiss parliament Thursday that it was “vital” for it to allow the transfer of Swiss-made arms to his war-shattered country.
“I know there is a discussion in Switzerland about the re-exportation of war material to protect and defend Ukraine,” he said in a video address, through a translator.
“That would be vital.”
Switzerland has so far refused to allow countries that hold Swiss-made weaponry to export it on to war-ravaged Ukraine, in line with its strict military neutrality.
Under Switzerland’s War Materiel Act, export requests cannot be approved if the recipient country is in an international armed conflict.
“We need weapons so we can restore peace in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.
“We are not a territory of war. We are not a conflict zone. We are a country that has always upheld the importance of peace,” he said.
“And you know full well that we can only counter this aggression together.”
He received a standing ovation at the end of his speech, which lasted around 15 minutes.
But many seats remained empty, since Switzerland’s largest party, the populist right-wing Swiss People’s Party, stayed away after failing to block his appearance amid warnings it could harm Swiss neutrality.
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.
Parliament has meanwhile been inching towards a compromise on the issue, possibly opening the way for the re-export of Swiss-made weapons under specific conditions.
Such arms transfers would potentially only be permitted to countries at war needing them for self-defense.
But such a determination would require a declaration by the United Nations Security Council or by two-thirds of the UN General Assembly.
Zelenskyy insisted Thursday there was no doubt his country was acting in self-defense.
“The source of death, the sole source of destruction is outside of our borders. We want to protect ourselves, and if you protect us, you protect the world against war,” he said.
The Ukrainian president also called on Switzerland to organize a “peace summit” for Ukraine, but provided no further details.