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Maurer defends Israel trip

Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer has started his controversial trip to Israel and has defended his decision to visit the country.

On Sunday he met Israeli President Shimon Peres and visited the holocaust memorial of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. On Monday he is due to meet his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak.

The visit has caused protests back in Switzerland – most recently in Zurich airport as the minister left for his visit - from organisations arguing that it undermined Swiss commitment to peace in the Middle East based on international law.

At the start of his trip on Saturday, Maurer told journalists from the Swiss ambassador’s residence in Tel Aviv that he had been invited by Israel and had the backing of the whole cabinet.

He said that a new armaments contract with Israel was not on the cards as there was no money at the moment. Officials were, however, studying the development of arms systems made in Israel in use in Switzerland, he said.

Discussions were on “security issues and military affairs, especially logistics and IT”, he added. and agencies

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