Concern over sharp rise in Swiss arms sales to Gulf

A Saudi-led coalition has used airstrikes in Yemen as part of its war in support of government forces fighting Iranian backed rebels. Keystone

Swiss sales of war equipment to Saudi Arabia, Bahrein and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have risen sharply this year, despite the fact that these countries are involved in the Yemen war, reports the SonntagsZeitung newspaper. 

This content was published on November 4, 2018 - 14:51

Between January and September, exports of war materiel to the three countries was worth CHF14.7 million ($14.7 million) compared with only CHF8.4 million in the whole of 2017. This is surprising, says the paper, given that since 2016 the government has adopted a more restrictive policy on such exports to countries involved in the Yemen war.   

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) told the paper that arms exports were “very volatile” and that a single transaction could account for significant fluctuations. 

Since the Yemen war broke out in 2015, Switzerland has delivered hundreds of guns and weapons to the region, writes the SonntagsZeitung, citing figures it says were verified by SECO. Many of these weapons landed in private hands, but the UAE army also took deliveries. 

This year the government authorised F-5 fighter jet parts that had been repaired in Switzerland to be sent back to Bahrain, according to the article. SECO told the paper it had no indications the F-5s would be used in Yemen, but the SonntagsZeitung says Bahrain has used F-5 planes to carry out attacks in Yemen in the past.   

The Swiss government this week abandoned plans to ease arms exports, following public criticism. It also decided in the wake of the Khashoggi affair not to approve any arms exports to Saudi Arabia until further notice. But the SonntagsZeitung says some centrist and leftwing members of parliament are pushing for exports of war materiel to be stopped to all countries involved in the Yemen conflict. 

The war in Yemen has left some 10,000 people dead, mostly civilians, and caused the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, according to the UN.

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