Senate commission wants weapons for Swisscoy now

Swisscoy soldiers may get their hands on weapons sooner than expected Keystone Archive

The Senate's security commission wants the Swiss military contingent in Kosovo, the Swisscoy, to be armed as soon as possible.

This content was published on November 23, 2001 minutes

The soldiers should receive weapons earlier than planned according to the senators. The government had recommended the Kosovo troop wait until next October to be armed.

A platoon of 50 men will be sent to the Balkans next autumn, along with five tanks, to reinforce the 160-strong Swisscoy. The commission believes the soldiers shouldn't have to wait until then though and should receive a personal weapon, be it an assault rifle, a machine gun, a pistol or even pepper spray, now.

In a nation-wide referendum, voters accepted in June the principle of arming Swiss peacekeepers on missions abroad.

Guarantee own security

The commission voted on Thursday that the Swisscoy should pursue its mission in Kosovo until 2003, but that it should also guarantee its own security, which has until now been in the hands of other foreign contingents.

Members of the brigade, all volunteers, have also declared in the past they wanted to carry out their own security duties, and reinforce their own personal safety.

The senators have also asked the government to report by the end of next year on the transition from military to civilian authorities in Kosovo.

In a further step, the commission also stated that peacekeeping missions abroad should include more important tasks for Swiss soldiers, among them ensuring security within large areas.

Swisscoy's role in the Balkans has been limited to supplying logistical support to the Austrian battalion of the international forces in Kosovo. The Swiss soldiers first began their mission in 1999.

The House of Representatives security commission had already recommended an extension of the Swisscoy's mission. Both chambers of Parliament will vote on the issue during their next session.

swissinfo with agencies

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