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Swiss won’t vote on arms export ban proposal

The decision by the House of Representatives is considered a political upset. Earlier this year, the house refused to restrict the powers of the government. © Keystone/Christian Beutler

Campaigners seeking a ban on Swiss arms exports have withdrawn their initiative that aimed to stop weapons exports to countries in conflict.

The broad allianceExternal link of political parties and non-governmental groups behind the proposal says it is pleased that parliament has agreed a compromise.

“This is a great day for a credible Swiss peace policy,” the alliance declared. ”We therefore withdraw the initiative.”

The announcement came after a slim majority in the House of Representatives on Wednesday refused to grant the government the right to decide on exceptions to a ban.

The Senate had already agreed a legal amendment earlier this year.

In a bid to avoid a parliamentary decision, Economics Minister Guy Parmelin had argued that the government needed a free hand and that it was in the interest of the country’s export industry.

Parmelin had also warned that the initiative might prompt weapons manufacturers to leave Switzerland and that it jeopardised the production of weapons for the country’s self-defence.

Large support

The initiative was launched following a decision by the government in 2018 to allow arms exports to countries involved in conflicts.

The campaigners collected more than 134,000 signatures in six months to force a nationwide vote on a ban on weapons deliveries to countries in conflict and those guilty of serious and systematic human rights abuses.

Under Swiss law, initiative groups have 18 months to hand in at least 100,000 signatures.

Last year, voters threw out a proposal aimed at banning investments in weapons manufacturers.

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