The Swiss government has authorised the export of war material to Saudi
Arabia, India and Pakistan.
The approval follows controversy surrounding planned sales of surplus
Swiss army equipment in the recent past, in particular to the United
At its meeting on Friday, the cabinet gave the green light to the deals,
to be worked out by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).
The sales include 20 air defence systems with ammunition to Saudi Arabia
valued at SFr375 million ($309.27 million) and 21 air defence systems
for Pakistan worth SFr136 million.
India wants to buy 140 assault rifles with accessories and spare parts
According to the government, these sales do not present any problems.
The air defence systems are defensive weapons that cannot be used
against the civilian population, noted Othmar Wyss at Seco.
In the case of India, he said the European Union was also exporting war
material to the country. Declarations of onward export to another
country had been supplied, he added.
The sale of surplus war material has been a political hot potato in
Switzerland, with such exports to the United Arab Emirates suspended for
a year after 40 M109 armoured vehicles were later transferred on to Morocco.
The controversy surrounding such exports began with the planned sale –
authorised in 2005 — of 180 M113 armoured vehicles to Iraq via the UAE
and 736 others to Pakistan.
Both deals fell through, in the case of Iraq after reports that the
armoured personnel carriers would not be used for civilian purposes.
Requests from India and South Korea to purchase war material also came
up against opposition.
In March the government told Pakistan that the 736 tanks were no longer
for sale following a tightening of legislation on war material exports.
However, Pakistani authorities told visiting Swiss Defence Minister
Samuel Schmid in October that they were still interested in buying the
Under current legislation, obsolete army equipment has first to be sold
or given back for nothing to the producer country.
Failing that, it can be offered, with the consent of the producer
country, to other states that agree not to re-export and that are
parties to international export controls.
As a last resort, it can be stocked in Switzerland or even scrapped.
A committee of the House of Representatives called on the government to
be stricter on the issue and a people’s initiative against exports of
war material was launched in June.
Its supporters have until the end of December to collect the 100,000
signatures needed to force a nationwide vote on the issue.
In a reaction to the cabinet’s decision, an official of the country’s
leading pacifist organisation — Switzerland without an army — said the
group was shocked by the government’s position.
Slap in the face
“It is a slap in the face of a key parliamentary committee which had
come out against arms exports to India and Pakistan only in November,”
commented Reto Moosmann.
“The decision by the government confirms us in our endeavour to seek a
general ban on arms exports. We’re campaigning for a nationwide vote on
the matter. After only six months we have already collected half the
The federal administration has recently refused other demands for such
exports on account of concerns for maintaining peace, international
security and regional stability.
For legal and diplomatic reasons, names of companies and countries
concerned are not published.
Originally Posted HERE