Germany has welcomed a decision by neutral Switzerland to open the way to sell back some of its German-made Leopard II tanks to help rebuild stocks depleted by aid to Ukraine.
Germany had asked Switzerland in February to sell back some of the 96 Leopard II tanks it has in storage to manufacturer Rheinmetall AG.
To comply with Swiss neutrality laws, Berlin has assured Bern the weapons would not go to Kyiv, but remain in Germany or with a NATO or European Union ally.
“We are very happy and grateful for this decision,” Michel Fluegger, Germany’s ambassador to Switzerland, told Swiss TV. “We need these tanks, they will fill gaps between us and our European partners.”
He was speaking after the Swiss parliament on Tuesday approved the decommissioning of 25 Leopard II tanks, paving the way for them to be resold to Germany.
Swiss public opinion has been deeply divided on the issue of supplying weapons to Ukraine and the country’s blocking of re-exports has angered some nations.
Requests from Germany, Denmark and Spain to allow Swiss-made weaponry they have previously bought to go to Ukraine have been blocked by Bern citing Swiss neutrality, which prevents weapons being sent directly or indirectly to combatants in a war.
Buying Swiss weapons could become difficult unless Bern adjusts its law on war materials, German ambassador Fluegger said.
“We have purchased a lot of weapons, systems or components or ammunition from Switzerland, including our NATO partners, and we would now like to give some of these systems to Ukraine.”
The Swiss cabinet now has to formally support the export of the Leopard IIs to Germany, but this is expected to be a formality after Defence Minister Viola Amherd said the supply of the tanks to Germany complied with Swiss neutrality law and was also in the country’s interest.
“In this way we can also contribute to security in Europe and thus directly to the security of our country,” Swiss Defence Minister Viola Amherd told Swiss broadcaster SRF.