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Pilatus aircraft Row over ‘export ban’ to Saudi Arabia takes new turn

Protesters in the towns of Stans with banners and flags

The members of the Swiss governments faced public protests against a decision to ban the Stans-based Pilatus aircraft manufacturer from operating in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

(Keystone/ Urs Flüeler)

Switzerland’s office of the attorney general has opened a criminal investigation in connection with the sale of military training aircraft to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The federal prosecutor’s office did not specify any defendant on Friday but said the probe was linked to alleged violations of Swiss law governing private security services.

It is s the latest stage in a row between the aircraft manufacturer Pilatus and the foreign ministry which banned the company from operating in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The ministry ordered Pilatus to pull out of the two countries within 90 days. It argues the support services and the replacement of spare parts are incompatible with Switzerland’s foreign policy objectives.

The decision has drawn harsh criticism from the local business community and cantonal governments in central Switzerland. Pilatus announced plans to take the foreign ministry to court.

In 2017, Pilatus delivered 55 PC- 21military training aircraft to Saudi Arabia and the UAE - both have been involved in a military conflict in Yemen.

Pilatus has rejected the foreign ministry allegations, saying the company’s activities in Saudi Arabia are covered by a 2012 export permit.

swissinfo.ch with Keystone-SDA/ug

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