GENEVA Aug 3 Switzerland has no plans to impose
sanctions on Russia and will remain neutral in the diplomatic
row over Ukraine, Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann
said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday.
Switzerland has frozen funds connected to Ukraine's former
president Viktor Yanukovich. Unlike the United States and
European Union it has not sought to punish Russia for annexing
Ukraine's Crimea peninsula or for its support for rebels in
Around 75 percent of Russian crude oil exports are traded
through Geneva, according to the Swiss government, and Russian
assets in Swiss banks stood at nearly 13.8 billion francs ($15.2
billion) in 2012, according to the Swiss National Bank.
Switzerland is the current chairman of the Organization for
Cooperation and Security in Europe, which has been mediating
between the two sides and played a role in securing access for
international investigators to the crash site of the Malaysian
airliner shot down in eastern Ukraine two weeks ago.
"It is especially important now that there is a country that
can say 'we are not taking sides'. And we are offering to help
to resolve the crisis, which has brought insecurity and war,
step by step," he told the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper.
"Our role would be weakened if we simply imposed the EU
Asked if there was any chance of Switzerland changing its
policy, Schneider-Ammann said that there had been "great
unanimity" in cabinet discussions up to now.
But he reiterated the government's pledge that Switzerland
would not allow itself to become a conduit for people or funds
trying to bypass European sanctions, and it was reviewing the
way it put that pledge into practice to be sure it was working.
Germany's Foreign Ministry last week said it wanted wider
cooperation to pressure Russia for its support of separatists in
Ukraine, adding that it had been in talks with non-EU countries
such as Switzerland and Turkey.
Even if Switzerland does not impose its own sanctions some
of the EU measures will apply in Switzerland because it is a
member of the 28-nation bloc's passport-free Schengen zone.
No representative from the ministry was immediately
available to comment on the remarks.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Keiron Henderson)