Swiss police are to be allowed to carry arms when taking part in international peacekeeping missions abroad. The decision means Swiss civilian police observers can now be deployed in the United Nations force in Kosovo.
The cabinet said on Monday that the change was necessary because the UN was increasingly making the carrying of weapons a condition of service in its missions. Security concerns have so far prevented unarmed officers from joining the UN police force in Kosovo.
Switzerland currently has 14 observers from the civilian police (CIVPOL) on missions abroad. Twelve are with the UN in Bosnia-Herzegovina and two are serving with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the Croatian province of east Slavonia.
The cabinet also said it aimed in future to have about 20 civilian police officers on service abroad at any one time. Swiss military police are already allowed to carry arms abroad, but only for self-defence.
The government is also planning a series of wide-ranging army reforms to allow Swiss troops to carry weapons when on foreign missions. Switzerland's peacekeeping troops in Kosovo are protected by Austrian troops.
swissinfo with agencies