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No sign of France reviewing weapons sales to Saudi-led Yemen coalition - sources

February 10, 2018 at 11:47 am

File photo of a fighter jet of the Royal Saudi Air Force [Qatar Tribune/Facebook]

France has shown no concrete signs of reducing or suspending weapons sales to a Saudi-led coalition despite warnings that some of its weapons could be used in the war in Yemen, sources aware of the issue said on Friday.

The kingdom is leading a coalition formed in 2015 to fight the Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls most of northern Yemen and the capital Sanaa, in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million.

The French administration under President Emmanuel Macron has drawn criticism in particular from rights groups over its support of the kingdom’s actions and allowing weapons it has sold to Riyadh potentially to be used in its Yemen operations.

“There is a desire to show that France is doing something. It says some deliveries have been suspended in the past, but there is nothing to show that,” a source close to the matter said.

Two other sources echoed those comments.

According to officials from the previous French government and diplomats, Jean-Marc Ayrault, foreign minister from 2016-2017, had already warned in an official letter to the then-prime minister of a possible escalation in Yemen and of the consequences of weapon sales to those involved in the conflict.

Other European states have begun to limit military ties with the Saudi-led coalition. Norway has suspended sales to the United Arab Emirates and Germany, as part of a deal creating a new government, plans to not supply arms to anyone directly involved in Yemen.

“The Germans’ reservations seem to be making the French uncomfortable,” said a former senior government official.