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Saudi Arabia, France sign new military agreement

Tuesday, July 10, 2018
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Riyadh and Paris have signed a military agreement on protecting classified information amid criticisms of France’s support for the Saudi regime’s bloody war against impoverished Yemen.

The agreement was signed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French Defense Minister Florence Parly in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday.

Bin Salman, who also serves as the Saudi defense minister, and Parly reviewed areas of bilateral cooperation, especially military ties, as well as regional developments.

The meeting and the signing ceremony were attended by senior officials from both countries, including Saudi military chief of staff General Fayyad bin Hamed al-Ruwaili and Francois Gouyette, the French ambassador to Riyadh.

The French defense chief’s visit to Saudi Arabia follows a trip in April by bin Salman to Paris, where the two countries signed 20 major economic deals worth $18 billion.

Growing Paris-Riyadh military ties come amid international outcry over the Saudi-led deadly military aggression against Yemen, which has killed or injured over 600,000 civilians since its onset in March 2015, according to the figures released by the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights.

French President Emmanuel Macron has come under pressure from rights groups to scale back ties with the Saudi-led coalition over its brutal war against the people of Yemen.

According to a recent YouGov poll, 75 percent of French people want Macron to suspend arms exports to countries involved in the war on Yemen, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

France, the world’s third-biggest arms exporter, counts Saudi Arabia and the UAE among its major purchasers. France’s biggest military firms, including Dassault and Thales, have major contracts in the Persian Gulf.

Export licensing procedures have no parliamentary checks in France and are just approved through a committee headed by the prime minister that includes the foreign, defense and economy ministers.

Earlier in May, two human rights groups campaigning for a halt to French arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE said they were taking their case to France's highest legal authority.

Legal non-governmental organization Droit Solidarite and Aser, which specializes in armament issues, had given Prime Minister Edouard Philippe a two-month ultimatum in March to suspend licenses for arms sales to the Persian Gulf states.

The two rights bodies argue that France is breaking international law by providing weapons for the Saudi-led aggression against war-ravaged Yemen and subsequently committing war crimes there. 

In March, Amnesty International and French human rights group ACAT published a legal report warning that Paris and its weapons suppliers faced potential legal risks over their dealings with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.