FRANCE (VOP TODAY NEWS) – France’s foreign minister on Tuesday refrained from answering questions about whether his country should stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates because of its use in Yemen and said Iran also had “a lot” of weapons there.
Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition formed in 2015 to fight the Houthi group allied to Iran, which now controls much of northern Yemen and the capital Sanaa in a war that has claimed more than 10,000 lives and displaced more than three million.
The French government under President Emmanuel Macron has faced special criticism from human rights groups for supporting Saudi Arabia and allowing it to use weapons it sold to Riyadh in the kingdom’s operations in Yemen.
Asked why Paris was continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE under the current situation, Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain avoided the issue and said the priority was to find a political solution to the Yemeni crisis.
“I am really concerned about the situation in Yemen,” Le Duran told the parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
“It is true that there are Saudi weapons, but do you believe that there are Iranian weapons too, a lot (of Iranian weapons)?”
Iran denies supplying Houthis with weapons.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among the biggest buyers of French arms, buying tanks, armored vehicles, ammunition and artillery from France. The UAE is buying French fighter jets.
Informed sources said that unlike other European countries, Paris showed no concrete signs of reducing or suspending the sale of weapons to the Saudi-led coalition despite warnings that some might be used in the Yemen war.
But Paris’ concern has grown sharply because of the deteriorating humanitarian situation. In December, Macaron called for a “full lifting” of a Saudi blockade of Yemen.
“The problem is the sovereignty of countries that involve their armies in an unjustifiable conflict, and we hope that … we will quickly resume the political solution, because it is probably the easiest solution to the region if there is political will on all sides,” he said.