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Austria’s neutral status here to stay, foreign minister says

Austria's neutral status here to stay, foreign minister says 1

BERLIN (Reuters) – The foreign minister of Austria said his country would retain its neutral status even as EU allies Sweden and Finland overhauled decades-long foreign policy stances to apply for NATO membership in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The situation for us looks a little different,” Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday, pointing to “overwhelming” public support for neutrality in Austria.

Schallenberg said that the country, which obtains 80% of its natural gas from Russia, would continue to provide humanitarian support to Ukraine rather than lethal weapons.

“We are helping on a large scale but not with war munition and I think help for Ukraine cannot only be reduced to war munition,” he told the broadcaster.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, has prompted a redrawing of national security policy in many European nations.

On Wednesday, Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO, one of the most significant changes in Europe’s security architecture in decades, not least because Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia.

Switzerland, not an EU member state and long known for a neutral status that kept it out of two world wars, is also leaning more towards joining the defence alliance, the head of security policy at the Swiss defence ministry told Reuters earlier this month.

(Reporting by Rachel More; Editing by Madeline Chambers)

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