Social Democrats oppose sanctions against Russia

Social Democrat Christian Levrat defends the Swiss position to forego sanctions against Russia Keystone

Switzerland should not impose sanctions against Russia because the Swiss chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has an intermediary role to play, according to the head of the second-largest political party.

This content was published on March 23, 2014 - 12:25 and agencies

Switzerland should not forego sanctions in considerations of economic interests – Switzerland plays an important role in Russia’s gas trade – but the relinquishment is a “contribution towards peace and stability within the OSCE”, Christian Levrat, president of the centre-left Social Democratic Party told Sunday newspaper NZZ am Sonntag in an interview.

Switzerland has so far not joined the European Union and the United States, which had blocked a number of Russian bank accounts and imposed visa restrictions on Russian officials following the annexation of the Republic of Crimea. The role of Switzerland is different from that of the EU and the US, Levrat said.

“Switzerland is in a position where it may exercise a role of mediator,” Levrat said. “That’s why it should not follow the example of other countries, which have imposed sanctions, much as I sympathise with that reaction.”

Levrat also said that defence minister Ueli Maurer from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party has severely harmed the interests of Switzerland when he had said in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Weltwoche that Swiss President Didier Burkhalter’s role as OSCE chairman was difficult to reconcile with Switzerland’s neutrality and independence.

“The OSCE is the most neutral organisation, created as neutral platform for dialogue between east and west,” Levrat told NZZ am Sonntag. “Maurer betrayed the interests of our country – it is not clear whether he did so because of party consideration or stupidity.” Levrat expects Maurer’s behaviour to rebound when the seven members of the cabinet are re-elected.

In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung Burkhalter himself defended the role Switzerland plays within the OSCE as successful and in accordance with the Swiss constitution. The Swiss involvement was “the Swiss contribution to the resolution of international problems”, Burkhalter said in an interview with the Sunday paper.

According to Thomas Gremiger, Swiss ambassador to the OSCE, the organisation’s observation mission, which was approved by Russia and the Ukraine, was only possible because of Switzerland. The country is seen an “honest and impartial negotiator” because it is neutral and not a member of the EU, Gremiger told the SonntagsZeitung.

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