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Germany requests Switzerland to sell Leopard 2 tanks

Germany requests Switzerland to sell Leopard 2 tanks

Germany requests Switzerland to sell Leopard 2 tanks

Germany requests Switzerland to sell Leopard 2 tanks

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  • The German government has asked to sell some of its decommissioned Leopard 2 tanks.
  • Switzerland is prohibited from sending weapons directly to Ukraine.
  • Bern has previously denied requests from Germany, Spain, and Denmark.
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The German government has asked Switzerland to sell some of its decommissioned Leopard 2 tanks, the Swiss and German governments announced on Friday, in a deal that could allow Western countries to increase military aid to Ukraine.

Germany wants Switzerland to sell some of the tanks back to Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE), allowing the company to supplement the armaments of European Union and NATO members.

Germany, Poland, Portugal, Finland, and Sweden are among the countries sending Leopard tanks to assist Ukraine in defending itself against Russian attacks, thereby filling gaps in their own arsenals.

In a letter dated Feb. 23, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius and Economics Minister Robert Habeck informed Swiss Defence Minister Viola Amherd about the project, the defence ministries in Bern and Berlin said on Friday.

The German government said in the letter that it would be grateful if Switzerland could approve the purchase of mothballed Leopard 2 tanks by Rheinmetall, as it had done in the past, if the tanks were not intended to be put back into service.

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“The tanks will not be sold on to Ukraine. We guarantee that they will remain in Germany or with our partners in NATO and the EU, to plug gaps that have emerged through the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks and to improve the supply with spare parts in general,” the letter said.

It did not detail how many tanks Berlin was aiming for but it acknowledged that the German government was aware “that there is a discussion in Switzerland, too, about the consequences (of Russia’s war in Ukraine) for its national defence”.

Switzerland is prohibited from sending weapons directly to Ukraine under its neutrality laws and a separate arms embargo.

According to the sources, Swiss Defence Minister Viola Amherd responded in a letter on March 1 that a possible sale of a portion of the Swiss tank fleet would necessitate the Swiss parliament formally declaring the mothballed tanks out of service.

“Discussions on this issue are currently under way in parliament,” the spokesman added.

The Swiss military currently operates 134 Leopard 2 tanks, with an additional 96 in storage. The government did not specify how many tanks Germany had requested, but a spokesman said the army had indicated that a limited number of tanks could be avoided.

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There was no word on when the Swiss parliament might vote on the issue, though the government said it would comment further on Monday.

Bern has previously denied requests from Germany, Spain, and Denmark to allow previously purchased Swiss-made munitions to be re-exported to Ukraine.

However, the issue is becoming more divisive in Switzerland, with a pro-Ukraine shift in public and political sentiment putting pressure on the government to lift a ban on Swiss weapons exports to war zones.

Calls from Switzerland’s European neighbours to allow such transfers to Kyiv have grown louder, and the rules should be relaxed, according to the recommendations of the parliament’s two security committees.

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