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Swiss summit divides: neutrality under fire amid Ukraine conference

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"The conference will achieve nothing," Nils Fiechter, chief of the Swiss Peoples' Party youth wing, told Russian broadcaster RT on the eve of the talks, in comments picked up by Swiss media on Sunday. "The whole thing is an absolute farce and an embarrassment for our country." Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

A leading Swiss right-wing nationalist panned a summit his country was hosting in a bid to pressure Russia to end its war on Ukraine as an "embarrassment", reflecting the view that the talks are damaging for Switzerland's traditional neutrality.

The right-wing Swiss Peoples’ Party, Switzerland’s largest party, says neutrality is an integral part of Switzerland’s prosperity, and it has initiated a referendum to embed the principle in the constitution.

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Leading figures in the party have argued Switzerland should not have hosted this weekend’s summit without Russia, and Nils Fiechter, chief of the Swiss Peoples’ Party youth wing, delivered a damning verdict on the talks to Russian broadcaster RT.

“The conference will achieve nothing,” Fiechter told RT on the eve of the talks, in comments picked up by Swiss media on Sunday. “The whole thing is an absolute farce and an embarrassment for our country.”

The summit being held at the Bürgenstock luxury resort has sparked heated debate over whether Switzerland should abandon its neutrality, a position deeply rooted in the Swiss psyche.

Swiss neutrality initiative gains momentum

Western powers and other nations at the conference were on Sunday seeking consensus on condemning Russia’s invasion and underscoring the war’s human cost.

Fiechter said the Swiss government had “blindly” bowed to international pressure by not inviting Russia.

“Switzerland is … allowing Ukraine to dictate who may or may not be invited to this conference and it is allowing it to turn into a Zelenskiy show,” he told RT. “Now we are in danger, and it’s a great danger, of Switzerland allowing itself to be drawn into a world war.”

Switzerland agreed to host the conference at the behest of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

How neutral is Switzerland, really?

Bern says Russia must be involved in the process but justified not inviting it on the grounds that Moscow had repeatedly said it had no interest in taking part.

The Kremlin has described Switzerland as “openly hostile” and unfit to mediate in peace-building efforts, in particular because of its adoption of EU sanctions against Moscow. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, two of Europe’s other historically neutral states, Sweden and Finland, have both joined NATO.

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