Sale of France arms to the Middle East doubled

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SHAFAQNA – According to a government report, French arms sales to the Middle East doubled in 2017, despite pressure from lawmakers and rights groups on President Emmanuel Macron to prevent weapons from entering the countries conducting a bloody war like Arab states that are part of a Saudi-led offensive in Yemen.

France is among the world’s leading arms exporters, its sales surging in recent years on the back of its first lucrative overseas contracts for Rafale fighter jets, notably to India and Qatar, as well as a multi-billion submarine deal with Australia.

Paris has sought to increase its diplomatic weight in the Middle East through the sale of naval vessels, tanks, artillery and munitions to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The government’s annual report on weapons sales shows that France’s total arms sales halved to $8.1 billion in 2017, in line with previous years where no major contracts, such as for the Dassault-made Rafale, were recorded.

However, about 60 percent of sales went to the Middle East, with arms exports to the region worth $4.6 billion compared to $2.3 billion a year earlier.

Sales to Saudi Arabia fell slightly, while deals to the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar soared.

France’s biggest defence firms, including Dassault and Thales, have major contracts with the [Persian] Gulf.

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

Unlike those of many allies, France’s export licence procedures have no parliamentary checks or balances.

They are approved by a committee headed by the prime minister that includes the foreign, defence and economy ministries.

Details of licences are not public and once approved are rarely reviewed.

Non-governmental organisations and some lawmakers have urged Macron to scale back support for Arab states that are part of a Saudi-led offensive in Yemen against fighters from Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa.

The French government says its arms sales are governed by strict procedures that are in line with international treaties, TRT World reported.

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