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French MPs urge inquiry into arms sales to Saudi Arabia as bin Salman visits

8 April 2018 19:09

Over a dozen French lawmakers have called for an investigation into the country’s lucrative weapons sales to Saudi Arabia as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman begins a visit to Paris on Sunday. 

MP Sebastien Nadot said he and 15 other co-signatories had officially filed a request for a 30-member commission of inquiry into France’s complicity in the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

The commission is “to study France’s compliance with international commitments regarding arms export licenses, munitions, training, services and assistance that our country has granted during these three years to the belligerents of the conflict in Yemen,” he added.

The military campaign has killed and injured over 600,000 civilians since its onset in March 2015, according to the latest figures released by the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights.

The request comes days after 12 international NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, sent a private letter to French President Emmanuel Macron urging him to halt arms sales to Riyadh.

They also demanded pressure on bin Salman to ease a blockade on Yemeni ports.

“Emmanuel Macron should put Yemen at the center of his discussions with Mohammed bin Salman as he hosts him in France,” the rights groups said.

Macron under pressure ahead of bin Salman visit to France

Ten rights groups have urged French President Emmanuel Macron to compel the Saudi crown prince to put an end to Yemen war.

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.

However, a French presidential source defended the country’s arms exports, claiming that Paris “obeys very precise criteria, including the concern for situations in which civilian populations may be endangered.”

The Saudi crown prince arrives in Paris on Sunday for a two-day visit that will focus on the crises in the Middle East.

The trip comes after bin Salman’s weeks-long tour of the United States, Britain and Egypt, where he courted business leaders and clinched a host of multi-million dollar deals.

In Paris, the Saudi royal figure is expected to attend cultural events, political meetings and an economic forum. A tourism project will also be announced between the two countries.

Riyadh, Paris at odds over Iran

In November 2017, Macron held talks with the Saudi crown prince in Riyadh, with several Western and Arab diplomats describing the exchange as tense.

According to the officials, during the meeting bin Salman threatened to curb ties with France if Macron did not alter his desire for dialog with Iran.

“While Macron recognizes the reforming aspirations, he sees that bin Salman could be a real loose cannon and what he is doing in Yemen and Qatar and the talk on Iran has potential to add fuel to regional fire,” a French diplomat told Reuters.

France is the world’s third biggest arms exporter and counts Saudi Arabia among its biggest purchasers.

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.

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