In a historic first, Swiss defence minister joins meeting of NATO's North Atlantic Council

  • 22 Mar. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 22 Mar. 2023 17:52

Viola Amherd, Swiss Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport, visited NATO Headquarters on Wednesday (22 March 2023) for talks with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and to meet with NATO ambassadors. Her participation in the North Atlantic Council was the first-ever by a Swiss defence minister.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Viola Amherd, Head of Federal Department for Defence, Civil Protection and Sports of Switzerland

In their bilateral meeting, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg thanked Minister Amherd for Switzerland's close partnership with NATO, including its contribution of almost 200 troops to the Alliance's KFOR mission in Kosovo. Underlining a shared commitment to the rules-based international order, the Secretary General underlined that Switzerland's neutrality is not an obstacle to working with NATO, and he welcomed Bern's commitment to further deepen cooperation with the Alliance. He further thanked Switzerland for its humanitarian support to Ukraine, including through NATO's Comprehensive Assistance Package. He urged the Swiss government to reconsider its position on barring re-export of Swiss-made arms and ammunition to Ukraine, which is preventing Allies from providing more support. Mr Stoltenberg underlined that Allies and partners are helping Ukraine to uphold its right to self-defence, as enshrined in the UN Charter. 

At a meeting of the North Atlantic Council chaired by Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană, Allies also expressed appreciation for Switzerland's close partnership with NATO, including its substantial contributions to stability in the Western Balkans, and its mirroring of EU sanctions on Russia. Many NATO Allies also called on Switzerland to reconsider its legislation preventing the re-export of arms and ammunition to Ukraine, as the country continues to resist Russia's brutal war of aggression.