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Arms exports to Arab nations criticized

Siobhán Dowling · 29 Jul 2011, 11:26

Published: 29 Jul 2011 11:51 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Jul 2011 11:26 GMT+02:00

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Activists have criticized the fact that Switzerland is increasing its arms exports to Arab regimes at a time of unrest in the Middle East.

Switzerland exported armaments worth Sfr.327 million in the first half of 2011, an increase of Sfr.31million compared to the same period last year.

The biggest customer was the United Arab Emirates, who bought PC-21 training airplanes worth Sfr.114 million, according to figures released on Thursday. Other customers for Swiss weapons in the Arab world included Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

The Group for a Switzerland without an Army (GSoA) criticized the exports.

“The Arab world is fighting for a democratic transformation. The contribution of official Switzerland: record exports of armaments to the ruling dictatorships,” the group said, demanding an end to arms sales to the crisis region.

Rainer Schweizer, a law professor at St. Gallen University, also called on Switzerland to halt weapons exports to the Arab regimes. “At the very latest when Saudi Arabia and the Emirates took steps against the opposition in Bahrain, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs should have looked at halting the exports.”

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), however, insists that the PC-21 turboprop aircraft are delivered without weapons to the UAE. In the case of Saudi Arabia, SECO said that the exports were primarily related to repairs and replacement parts for an anti-aircraft system that was delivered in 2006.

The Swiss government-owned company Ruag is already under pressure following reports that ammunitions exports to Qatar are being used by Libyan rebels.

Swiss law forbids any weapons to be sold to countries in conflict, while the United Nations has placed an arms embargo on Libya.

Siobhán Dowling (news@thelocal.ch)

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