Zoaiter Says 'Missing' Swiss Arms Imported for His Guardsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
After Switzerland’s announcement it is freezing arms exports to Lebanon over missing weapons it sold to a Lebanese minister, former Public Works Minister Ghazi Zoaiter said on Friday the arms are “at his possession and all that Switzerland needs to do is communicate with him.”
In remarks he made to al-Akhbar daily, Hermel MP Zoaiter said he bought the weapons back in 2016 from his own money for his guards located at his two houses in Beirut and in Bekaa’s Hermel-Baalbek. He was a minister back then.
According to al-Akhbar, Zoaiter said that last year, when the Swiss military attaché in Beirut arrived for a post-shipment verification of the weapons, he only verified nine weapons in the possession of his companions in Beirut. However, he reportedly did not wish to move to Bekaa to check on the other weapons under the “pretext of time constraints."
He reiterated that the weapons, “bought for his personal security, exist and all the Swiss party has to do is communicate with him to arrange a verification visit.”
On Thursday, Switzerland said it is halting arms exports to Lebanon due to “inability to account for a Swiss shipment of weapons to Lebanon.”
The Swiss Ambassador to Lebanon told LBCI that her country in 2016 has exported 10 assault rifles and 30 sub-machine guns to a Lebanese minister, whom she declined to name, but post-shipment verification in March 2018 was only able to verify nine.
Switzerland raised concerns that the weapons might end up in “undesirable hands” which “justifies the freeze.”
Later on Friday, the Swiss embassy issued a statement saying that "the decision was taken after a Post-Shipment Verification (PSV) in March 2018 concerning an arms export was unsuccessful."
"This PSV did not concern the Republican Guard nor the Lebanese Armed Forces. The two previous PSV’s in 2013 and in 2015 – including the verification of an export to the Republican Guard – were completed successfully," it confirmed.
A statement issued by Zoaiter's office meanwhile said the weapons were purchased “in light of the dangerous security threats that the country was facing in 2016, especially the terrorist attacks on the eastern border adjacent to the Baalbek-Hermel province,” stressing that he bought them with his own money and not that of the treasury.
“We confirm that the aforementioned weapons are in the possession of MP Ghazi Zoaiter's bodyguards,” the statement said, adding that “the Swiss embassy has refused to make a visit to inspect them.”
“They should communicate with us to set up a visit to inspect them and do what is required,” the office added.