Japan, Switzerland agree to keep tough sanctions on Russia

TOKYO (AP) — Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said Monday his country has joined the international community in implementing tough sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but that does not mean it has abandoned its traditional neutrality.

Cassis and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed in talks in Tokyo that Russia must be held accountable for attacks on Ukrainian civilians, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.

Kishida, in opening remarks at their meeting, said Russia’s invasion undermines the foundation of the international order not only in Europe but also in Asia. “Now is the time for the international society to unite more than ever,” he said.

Cassis, who is also foreign minister, said at a separate news conference that Switzerland strongly denounces war and urged Russia to immediately halt its invasion.

He said Switzerland, which does not belong to the European Union, fully backs EU sanctions against Russia and implemented a fifth round of measures last week. But that does not mean his country has abandoned its policy of neutrality, he said.

“Supplies of war material would not be compatible with neutrality. Participation in military alliances would not be compatible with neutrality. Using one’s own territory to transport or fly over war material to war would be incompatible with neutrality. On the other hand, condemning any action that strongly violates our values, which are in the constitution, that is compatible with neutrality,” he said through a translator.

Japan also was quick in joining the United States and European Union in imposing sanctions against Russia because Tokyo fears the impact of its invasion on East Asia, where China has been increasingly pushing its own territorial claims.

Japan has frozen the assets of hundreds of Russian individuals and groups and banned new investment and trade, including exports of goods that could be used for military purposes. Japan also announced plans to phase out imports of Russian coal.

Cassis told reporters that he understood through his talks with Japanese officials about Japan’s harsh security environment. Japan is a neighbor of Russia and also faces the threat of North Korea’s missile and nuclear development, tensions with China and disputes over history with South Korea.