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French arms sales to the Middle East double despite domestic criticism

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on 10 April, 2018 [Twitter]
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (R) meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on 10 April, 2018 [Twitter]

France’s sales to the Middle East have doubled since 2017, a government report revealed.

The government’s annual report on arms sales, due to be published on Wednesday revealed that French arms sales in 2017 amounted to 7 billion euros; where 60 percent of those sales flowed into the Middle East, with arms exports to the region reaching 3.92 billion euros, up from 1.94 billion a year earlier.

Sales to Saudi Arabia fell slightly, while sales to the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar have increased.

Major French defence companies, including Dassault and Thales have large contracts with the Gulf states.

France is one of the world’s largest arms exporters, and its sales have increased in recent years as a result of its first lucrative foreign contracts for Rafale fighter jets especially to India and Qatar, as well as a multi-billion deal to sell submarines to Australia.

Read: Jordan urges political solution to rid Mideast of nuclear arms

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, France is now the third largest arms exporter in the world after the United States and Russia.

French non-governmental organizations and some lawmakers have urged the French president to cut support for Arab countries involved in a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen against Houthi rebels who control the capital, Sanaa.

Four non-governmental organizations, including the International Federation for Human Rights on Monday accused the French state and several companies of participating in an Egyptian government campaign against opposition groups over the past five years.

A report by the organizations said that among the equipments sold by France was “personal surveillance, mass interception, personal data collection and crowd control … technologies that have led to the arrest of tens of thousands of opponents or militants”.

Read: The arms race

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