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Italy lifts arms embargo from Saudi Arabia amid Yemen peace efforts

June 1, 2023 at 8:20 pm

Human rights campaigners protest against arms sale to Saudi Arabia [Campaign Against Arms Trade/Flickr]

Italy has lifted its embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia after years of restriction, amid the recent peace initiatives to resolve the conflict in Yemen.

Over the course of the years 2019 to 2021, Italy and other Western states restricted arms sales to Saudi Arabia through embargoes imposed on defence trade with the Kingdom, in efforts to prevent the arms’ use in the 12-year-long conflict in Yemen, where Riyadh had launched an extended military campaign against the Iran-backed Houthi rebel group.

In a statement yesterday following a cabinet meeting, however, the Italian government announced that the embargo was no longer necessary “in light of the changed situation” on the ground.

It praised Saudi Arabia’s recent mediation efforts and talks with the Houthis – which has resulted in the release and swapping of hundreds of prisoners on both sides, as well as a cessation in the conflict – as being conducive towards peace in Yemen and the region.

READ: After 9 years of war, control of Yemen remains divided among 3 sides

Rome added that the decision to lift the arms embargo was “in line” with its lifting of another arms embargo on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in April.

Alongside the peace talks with the Houthis, which many hope will create a lasting resolution to the conflict, Saudi Arabia also agreed in March to restore full diplomatic ties with Iran in a China-brokered deal.

The spate of peace talks and restoration of relations pursued by the Kingdom embodies a significant normalisation drive by Riyadh throughout the first half of 2023, which has resulted in a wider thawing of relations between the Gulf state and Western states which have threatened to isolate it over the past few years.

READ: Are Saudi Arabia and the UAE leading the way to a new order in the Middle East?