Spain will go ahead with the delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, despite concerns over Riyadh’s role in the bloody conflict in Yemen, Foreign Minister Josep Borrell confirmed.
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“In the end, the decision is to deliver these bombs to honour a contract dating from 2015, and was made by the previous government,” Borrell said.
Spain had come under intense fire from rights groups including Amnesty International for being one of the key exporters of deadly arms to Saudi Arabia. The war in Yemen, in which the Saudi-led coalition carried out many calamitous bombardments, is believed to have killed more than 10,000 people and left around 8.5 million on the verge of famine.
The move is a dramatic turnaround by Madrid which announced a week ago that it would block delivery of the weapons to Riyadh for its role in bombings in Yemen. The statement came after an airstrike in August on a crowded market in part of northern Yemen held by Houthi rebels that killed 40 schoolchildren.
However, Spanish Defence Minister Margarito Robles retracted from his intentions over arms deal. Asked about criticism from humanitarian groups over the deadly bombs, Borrell said they had “extraordinary precision of less than a metre” and did not cause collateral damage.
“This kind of weapon does not produce the same sort of damage as less sophisticated weapons, launched randomly, that create the sort of tragedy that we have all condemned,” he said. Cancellation of the deal would jeopardise a much larger order for five Corvette warships worth 1.8 billion euros, to be built by Spain’s Navantia shipyard in the southern region of Andalusia, with thousands of jobs at stake.
Workers in the region, a stronghold of the ruling Socialist Party, have staged demonstrations pressing for the deal to go ahead. A socialist government took power in Spain in June. More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other allies intervened in 2015 after Houthi rebels ousted the government from the capital Sanaa and seized swathes of the country.
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