The Swiss economics ministry says a temporary ban on war materiel exports to the United Arab Emirates has been lifted. The announcement comes as a joint commission investigates the alleged discovery of Swiss-made hand grenades in Syria.
The commission was set up earlier this week and will try to clarify whether a shipment of hand grenades, sold to the UAE in 2003, was later transferred out of the country, in violation of Swiss export regulations.
Two Swiss newspapers published pictures which claimed to show Syrian rebels in possession of the grenades. They were allegedly taken by a journalist in a Syrian town at the end of June.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) reiterated on Friday that there is no official confirmation of the exact location of the grenades shown in the pictures. It added that Switzerland stopped arms exports to Syria in 1998.
However, a total of 225,162 grenades were sent to the armed forces of the UAE in 2003, manufactured by the Swiss state-owned company, Ruag.
“Seco and the UAE authorities take very seriously reports in the media and have therefore decided to set up a joint investigating commission,” the statement said.
Seco added that it lifted a suspension of export licences against the UAE two weeks ago. Pending licence applications are to remain blocked until further notice.
The UAE were the biggest buyers of Swiss war materiel in 2011, including 25 unarmed military PC-21 Pilatus trainer aircraft. The planes have been delivered to the Gulf state but the Swiss company has a contractual obligation to provide maintenance service.
Swiss arms exports have regularly made the news headlines in the recent past. Last year, Switzerland froze exports to Qatar after it was revealed that the munitions told to the Gulf state had shown up in Libya in an apparent violation of export regulations.
The ban was lifted five months later. An investigation blamed a “military logistics error” for the re-export.
A major United Nations conference aimed at regulating arms trading is underway in New York. The meeting seeks to agree legally binding rules and standards for the export and transfer of conventional weapons.