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Conflict zone

Government eases Middle East weapons export ban

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Swiss arms exports will resume to the Middle East, excluding weapons that could either be used in the Yemen conflict or by states to repress their own citizens. Wednesday’s cabinet decision partially lifts a ban on war materiel exports to the region that has been in place since March 2015.

The moratorium has held up more than 50 multi-million franc deals with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Swiss weapons manufacturers had voiced their concerns at the ban, with the state-controlled Ruag saying it had cost the company tens of millions of francs and potential job losses.

Last summer, lobby groups for the Swiss war materiel industry are reported to have sent a letter of protest to the government.

On Wednesday, the Swiss cabinet said it had approved some of the blocked orders, but not all of them. Orders of small arms and some armoured vehicles remain blocked but the green light has been given to some other deals.

Most notably, these include CHF178 million ($185 million) worth of for spare parts for air defence systems in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE. Spare parts can also be delivered for fighter aircraft in Bahrain and tanks in UAE.

Some orders for small arms and ammunition were also permitted to Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and UAE.

Restrictions still remain in force as the ongoing Yemen crisis has dragged neighbouring countries into the conflict. The United Nations estimates that some 6,500 people have been killed in the civil war between March 2015 to March 2016.

swissinfo.ch with agencies


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