France’s weapons sales to Saudi Arabia rose 50 pct in 2018 despite the government calling for an end to the “dirty war” in Yemen, figures released on Tuesday showed, Reuters reports.
An annual government report showed that total arms sales rose 30 percent to 9.1 billion euros in 2018, driven by a sharp increase in sales to European allies.
France sold about 1 billion euros worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, with the main item being patrol boats. A partial naval blockade of ports controlled by the Houthi movement is one of the tactics used by a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen that has been criticised by campaigners for worsening a humanitarian crisis.
“With such transfers revealing a geopolitical alliance with these regimes and total violation of international commitments, one can only expect worsening conflicts in Yemen or the Horn of Africa, where the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are beginning to redeploy in partnership with France,” said Tony Fortin at the Paris-based Observatory for Armamanent.
The French government says its arms sales are governed by strict procedures that are in line with international treaties.
“Maintaining economic relations with these countries means keeping a presence in key regions for our security interests and our energy supplies. It is also about fighting terrorism and protecting our nationals on the ground,” Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said in a preface to the report.
France is among the world’s leading arms exporters, its sales surging in recent years on the back of its first lucrative overseas contracts for Rafale fighter jets, notably to India and Qatar, as well as a multi-billion submarine deal with Australia.
Paris has sought to increase its diplomatic weight in the Middle East through the sale of naval vessels, tanks, artillery and munitions to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
That has brought with it criticism from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and some lawmakers who have urged it to scale back support for Arab states that are part of the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen against fighters from the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement that controls the capital.
French arms exports to the Middle East increased to 4 billion euros from 3.9 billion last year,