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Swiss group wants referendum to solidify country's neutrality

ZURICH : A Swiss nationalist grouping launched an initiative on Tuesday that aims to protect Switzerland's neutrality and prohibit it from participating in future sanctions and defence alliances.

The campaign for a referendum was launched by Pro Schweiz, a recently formed association with ties to politicians from the country's right-wing party, in light of Switzerland's decision to forgo its tradition of neutrality and adopt punitive sanctions against Russia.

"You can't go along with sanctions, but in the next breath somehow still want to mediate internationally," said Christoph Blocher, a former government minister for the anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party.

The proposed legislation change would anchor neutrality in Switzerland's constitution, and in doing so prevent it from joining a defence alliance unless it comes under direct attack. "Non-military coercive measures" such as adopting sanctions, would also be banned.

100,000 signatures in favour of the initiative need to be collected by the Spring of 2024 in order for the matter to be brought before Swiss voters in a national referendum.

(Reporting by Noele Illien; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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