France yesterday confirmed that an arms shipment is heading to Saudi Arabia in spite of rights groups warning that the weapons may be used in the war in Yemen.
Defence Minister Florence Parly said the weapons were to be loaded on to a Saudi cargo ship in the port of Le Havre.
The minister refused to identify the types of arms, but stressed France’s stance that they have been used only for defensive purposes by Saudi Arabia since it began its Yemen offensive in 2015.
“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,” Parly said.
There have been international calls for arms deals with Saudi Arabia to be halted as a result of its actions in Yemen which the UN has described as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, with 3.3 million displaced by fighting and 24.1 million in need of aid.
UN investigators have also warned the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen has killed thousands of civilians in air strikes, tortured detainees, raped civilians and used child soldiers as young as eight, all of which may amount to war crimes.
Impoverished Yemen has remained in a state of civil war since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and shoring up Yemen’s embattled government.
According to UN officials, more than 50,000 people have been killed in the war.