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  • Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R).

    Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R). | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 June 2019

France’s arms sales rose to 91 billion euros (US$102 billion) or 30 percent over the course of last year, due — in part — to closed sales to European allies.

Despite a national call to end Yemen’s “Dirty War,” in 2018 French weapons sales to Saudi Arabia skyrocketed by 50 percent, a federal report revealed Tuesday.

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According to the annual report, France’s arms sales rose to 91 billion euros (US$102 billion) or 30 percent over the course of last year, due — in part — to closed sales to European allies.

Still, Paris’ business interests cannot be overlooked with the heavy increase in sales of naval vessels, tanks, artillery and munitions to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt which many say is a ploy to increase its diplomatic weight in the Middle East.

About one billion euros (US$1.13 billion) worth of arms were sold to Saudi Arabia, with the main item being patrol boats, the report stated. Another was a multi-billion sale of Rafale-fighter jets and helicopters to Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s rival. While Egypt closed another deal of some 270 million euros (US$303 million) worth of weaponry.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and lawmakers have urged France 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.

However, the French government insists its arms sales are governed by strict procedures that are in line with international treaties.

Tony Fortin at the Paris-based Observatory for Armament told Reuters that “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.”

Dubbed as the “Forgotten War,” the Yemeni civil war started on March 26, 2015, when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led a coalition of countries in a military campaign against Ansar Allah (Houthi) rebels in Yemen in support of the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi. 

The war in Yemen has already, according to a United Nation’s report, claimed 230,000 lives, many of those civilian, and has left almost 14 million people at increased risk of famine.

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