Switzerland Halts Arms Exports to U.A.E., as Report Says Swiss Arms Used by Syria Rebels

NATO dispatches frigates to the eastern Mediterranean in order to increase presence in the face of regional terror, as Turkey locates the bodies of the pilots shot down by Syria on June 22.

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Switzerland said it was freezing arms exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after a media report said a Swiss-made hand grenade originally shipped to the Gulf state had been found in Syria.

The government made the decision after a Swiss newspaper published a picture of a hand grenade produced by Swiss weapons manufacturer RUAG which it said had been taken in the Syrian town of Marea last month, despite the fact that Switzerland stopped arms exports to Syria in 1998.

The photograph raised concerns about the final destination of Switzerland's arms exports.

Initial findings suggested the grenade had been part of a RUAG shipment of 225,162 grenades sent to the UAE in 2003, the Swiss government said.

The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is therefore tentatively freezing all pending applications for arms exports to the UAE and demanding the return of licenses which have already been issued but not yet used, the Swiss government said in a statement.

The UAE government has not commented on the matter yet.

The Swiss government said it will make further inquiries because the circumstances in the case remain unclear.

"At present, there is no evidence that Swiss hand grenades have found their way to Syria. Inquiries are ongoing however," the government said.

Meanwhile, according to a report from the Turkish daily Hurriyet, NATO has dispatched a group of frigates to the Mediterranean Sea. The ships’ objective is “to give a clear message to terrorists in the region that NATO is on duty,” said German Rear Adm. Thorsten Kahler, in an interview with Hurriyet.

The NATO maritime group’s mission comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region, followed by the downing of a Turkish fighter jet which entered Syria’s airspace.

Syria says it downed the jet in self-defense when it was inside Syrian airspace. Turkey says the plane accidentally violated Syrian airspace for a few minutes but was later brought down in international airspace.

The wreckage of the plane, along with the bodies of the pilots was located on Wednesday, roughly 3,300 feet underwater.

Turkey has heightened military activity along its border with Syria since the incident and scrambled F-16 fighter jets on three consecutive days in the past week after it spotted Syrian transport helicopters flying near the Turkish border.

Image taken on Monday, June 18, 2012, provided by the Rebels Battalion of Baba Amro, purporting to show Syrian rebels in Homs. Credit: AP