France Admits to Sending More Arms to Saudi Arabia despite Yemeni Civil War
France’s top-ranking officials continue to insist French arms aren’t being used offensively by the Saudi forces in Yemen.
France’s government confirmed on Wednesday that a new batch of French-made weapons was destined for Saudi Arabia despite criticism over the latter’s involvement in the bloody civil war in neighboring Yemen.
France already fell out with its closest ally, Germany, as a German ban on arms shipments to Saudi Arabia over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi temporarily blocked jointly executed weapons orders from Riyadh.
While France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly has been denying that Saudi Arabia employs French-made arms in the Yemeni Civil War – deemed the world’s worst humanitarian disaster at present – a recent leak of a French military intelligence document has caused a scandal by indicating otherwise (the relevant stories recently made the top daily EU news rankings of The European Views here and here).
Yet, on Wednesday, Parly confirmed that a fresh-bad of French arms would be loaded on a Saudi cargo ship in the French port of Le Havre.
“As far as the French government is aware, we have no proof that the victims in Yemen are the result of the use of French weapons,” the French Defense Minister told BFM TV, as cited by France24.
While declining to reveal the precise types of French weapons in the new shipment to Saudi Arabia, Parly argued that Riyadh had been using French arms solely for defensive purposes since it got militarily involved in the Yemeni Civil War back in 2015.
According to French investigative journalism site Disclose, which leaked the French military intelligence file indicating that French tanks and artillery were being used by the Saudi forces in Yemen, the new arms shipment includes eight truck-mounted Caesar howitzers.
A government source cited by AFP earlier this week, however, denied that the howitzers were part of the shipment.
Domestic as well as international criticism has been piling up on the French government accusing it of becoming implicit in alleged Saudi war crimes in Yemen, where the civil war has claimed about 10,000 lives, and has caused a famine affecting millions of others.
According to the UN, over 24 million people in Yemen have been affected by the civil war in which Saudi Arabia and Iran are massively involved with their respective allies, and over 3 million people have been displaced.
“The Saudi regime is one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world, and has inflicted a terrible humanitarian crisis on Yemen,” said Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade NGO.
“The destruction would not have been possible without the complicity and support of arms-dealing governments,” he added.
France’s legislature saw further turmoil on the issue after on Tuesday, Genevieve Darrieussecq, secretary of state for the armed forces, said there was “no proof these weapons are being used against civilian populations”.
The statement caused all left-wing lawmakers to walk out of the sitting as a means of protest.
Both Saudi Arabia and its ally, the United Arab Emirates, are major arms procurement clients of France, the third largest arms exporter in the world after the USA and Russia.
“France has strategic interests in this part of the world,” French Defense Minister Parly said on Wednesday, arguing the fresh arms shipments were part of France’s “long-term partnerships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”
(Banner image: OCHA/UN)