Switzerland’s army chief has expressed satisfaction at ties with the UAE and commended the country’s role in maintaining stability in the oil-rich Gulf.
Lt Gen André Blattmann also said Switzerland has largely boosted its participation in Idex 2013 given its importance in promoting its defence industry.
“I am very satisfied with the relationship between our countries and armed forces. The UAE Armed Forces are contributing to stability in a vitally important region, and they are a very demanding customer concerning defence equipment,” he told Idex daily show bulletin.
“Thus, it is a particular honour for Switzerland that the UAE Air Force has chosen the Pilatus PC-21 training system; it is the same that we are using in Switzerland. Furthermore, there are frequent visits at the level of Defence Minister, Chief of the Armed Forces or Commander of the Air Force. We appreciate these contacts and are looking forward to a long and mutually beneficial cooperation.”
Blattman said 30 Swiss defence firms are showcasing their products at Idex compared with 18 in Idex 2011, adding that access to defence markets worldwide is crucial for Switzerland given its relatively small military industrial base.
“The involvement of our industry in a global competitive environment is essential to maintain a high-level technological base in Switzerland. International exhibitions like Idex provide a suitable platform to position our national industry,” he said.
Asked about Switzerland’s relations with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), he said he was gratified with the current level of cooperation.
“I have to stress that Switzerland is a small country, particularly when it comes to defence cooperation. However, considering these circumstances, I see the present situation as quite satisfactory and hope that the current level can be maintained.”
Blattman said Switzerland’s defence industry consists of large companies, which target mainly global markets on the grounds the local market is relatively small.
He said Switzerland has also got a broad base of SME’s supplying smaller systems, components or services. Most of them, he noted, are Swiss owned and are operating in the civil or dual use sector as well.
“The defence sector in Switzerland is dominated by traditionally strong industrial branches, such as machine industry, electronic and electro technical industry as well as metal industry,” he said adding that his country’s military exports stood at around 874 million Swiss francs in 2011.
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