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War material Swiss arms exports rise in first half year

Yemeni gunmen raising their rifles.

There are concerns over Swiss materials being destined to three Arab nations nations involved in the Yemeni conflict.


Switzerland exported weapons and munitions worth CHF205.2 million ($207 million) in the first six months of this year, up from CHF166.6 million for the same period in 2017.

According to figures published on Thursday by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Switzerland exported weapons and ammunition and war-related material to Germany (CHF47.7 million), the United States (CHF32.6 million), Denmark (CHF29.3 million), the United Arab Emirates (CHF9.5 million), Bahrain (CHF3 million) and Saudi Arabia (CHF2 million).

The non-governmental organisation Switzerland without an Army (GSoA)external link slammed the fact that CHF14.5 million worth of war materials were sold to countries with links to the conflict in Yemen. Swiss law, it noted, forbids the export of war material to a country involved in an armed conflict.

In May 2015, Switzerland stopped weapons deliveries to Saudi Arabia, which spearheaded a military intervention in Yemen. In April 2016, however, the Alpine nation re-authorised arms exports to the region, rejecting concerns over the risk of Swiss war materials being used in the Yemen conflict.

There is growing debate in Switzerland, where neutrality is a point of pride, over the ethics surrounding arms exports.

Earlier this month, the Federal Chancellery validated the necessary signatures for an initiative launched by the GSoA pacifist group calling for a ban the Swiss National Bank, foundations and pension schemes from investing in the arms industry. This is likely to go to a national vote.

In June, the Swiss government announced it had decided to relax the rules on arms exports, making exports to countries with an internal armed conflict possible under certain conditions. 

In 2017, exports of weapons and munitions from Switzerland to 64 countries rose by 8% to CHF446.6 million. In 2016, Switzerland was the 14th-largest arms exporter in the worldexternal link, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). 

The US and Russia are by far the largest.

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