Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says his government wants to end arms sales to Saudi regime due to war and atrocities in neighboring Yemen.
“We are not in favor of the sale of these weapons and so now it is only a question of formalizing this position and acting accordingly,” Conte said at the prime minister’s traditional end-of-the-year press conference on Friday while responding to Italy’s continuing arms exports to the Persian Gulf kingdom.
The move comes amid controversy over Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and massive aerial bombardment of Yemen’s residential areas and infrastructure there as well as the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Kashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey’s Istanbul.
If Conte’s decision goes ahead, Italy would join a growing list of countries halting arms sales to the Saudis.
Denmark, Finland, Germany and Norway have already decided to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also expressed interest in canceling his country’s $13 billion arms deal with Riyadh.
Trudeau announced in October that Ottawa stands ready to halt its weapons deal with the Saudis, claiming in a parliamentary address that “we strongly demand and expect that Canadian exports are used in a way that fully respects human rights.”
The Canadian branch of the US-based General Dynamic arms manufacturer has been contracted to deliver 742 armored vehicles to the Saudi kingdom to support its aggression against Yemen.
Despite Trudeau’s pledge however, reports last week revealed that a consignment of the military vehicles had already left Canada for Saudi Arabia.
Canada’s leading daily The Globe and Mail reported last Sunday that that a cargo ship loaded with armored vehicles left the port of Saint John for Saudi Arabia a day after protesters gathered to condemn the shipment.
Another report earlier this month further revealed that despite Germany’s claim of halting its arms shipments to the Saudis over the murder of Khashoggi, Berlin is covertly continuing its arms exports to the kingdom and is even planning to resume overt weapons sales to Riyadh soon.
This is while many more Western governments are continuing their arms deals with the Saudis, including the US, France, and the UK.
The United Nations calls Yemen the site of the worst humanitarian suffering in the world as the Saudi war has left 14 million people facing starvation
Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 to reinstate former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who had resigned amid popular discontent and fled to Riyadh.
The aggression is estimated to have left 56,000 Yemenis dead.
The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.