“We have a lot of discussion and have weighed up the pros and cons, and have come to conclusion that it would be neither realistic nor intelligent to push ahead with the liberalization of [weapons exports] at this this time,” said Johann Schneider-Ammann in comments quoted by the Tribune de Genève newspaper.
Ammann said external pressure had played a role in the decision. He stated the issue of weapons exports rules needed more analysis but refused to give further details.
The Swiss government said in early summer that it planned to allow the shipping of weapons to countries engaged in civil conflicts “if there is no reason to believe that the war materiel to be exported will be used in an internal armed conflict”.
The idea was to give an ailing industry a shot in the arm.
But the announcement has been met with widespread criticism with the International Committee of the Red Cross among those saying the move would threaten Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition.
The lower house of the Swiss parliament in September backed a motion that would stop the government having sole power to change Switzerland’s weapons export rules, with the senate now set to vote on the issue.
Meanwhile, a cross-party group has said it will launch a popular initiative to stop the planned relaxation of rules on weapons exports.
The comments by Switzerland’s economics minister come as Switzerland re-examines its relations with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Switzerland has suspended new arms sales to Saudi Arabia but Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick on Sunday published a photo, reportedly from late 2017, showing Saudi soldiers holding Swiss-made SG 552 rifles. Their sale to Saudi Arabia was licensed in 2006, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.