Swiss "will be cautious" over arms exports

Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann says that any new applications for weapons exports to Arab countries will be very carefully checked.

This content was published on February 26, 2011 - 14:43 and agencies

In comments to the Berner Zeitung newspaper published on Saturday, the minister said that despite the unrest spreading across North Africa – and some criticism of Swiss policy – there were no plans to tighten controls on arm exports any further.

According to recent figures issued by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), Swiss firms exported millions of francs of arms to Arab countries last year.

The minister said he could understand why there was criticism about arms exports. But he said that requests had always been very carefully checked. “I don’t think we need to have a bad conscience,” he said.

In addition, the cabinet’s stance is supported by the electorate, which in 2009 voted against banning the export of weapons and other war materials, added the minister.

On the question of whether the cabinet should reconsider its policy, Schneider-Ammann said there were currently no applications from Arab countries. “Should any applications for exports to Arab countries come in, these will be reviewed by the cabinet with even greater caution,” he said.

The minister also ruled out tightening controls on arms and munitions exports, saying this had been done three years ago with a ban on exports to countries where human rights are systematically and seriously violated.

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