SHARE
COPY LINK

YEMEN

French firm strikes Saudi weapons deal despite Yemen pressure

Saudi Arabia's state arms producer and a French government-majority firm signed an agreement Sunday on a joint venture to boost the kingdom's navy, amid calls to halt weapons sales to Riyadh over it role in Yemen.

French firm strikes Saudi weapons deal despite Yemen pressure
Saudi hovercraft participate in last year's "Gulf Shield 1" military drills. Photo: Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP

The memorandum of understanding between Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) and France's Naval Group is aimed at providing the oil-rich Gulf state's navy with “state-of-the-art systems”, a statement said.  

“Through design, construction, and maintenance activities, the joint venture will contribute significantly to further enhancing the capabilities and readiness of our Royal Saudi Naval Forces,” SAMI boss Andreas Schwer said.

A spokeswoman for Naval Group — which is owned by the French state and French multinational giant Thales — refused to give any more details.    

French lawmakers and rights groups have repeatedly called on France's government to suspend all arms deals to Riyadh because of the war in Yemen, where some 10,000 people have been killed since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015.  

Riyadh is battling on the side of the internationally recognised government against Iran-aligned Huthi rebels, in a conflict that has seen all sides accused of potential war crimes. 

The US House of Representatives this week voted overwhelmingly to end American involvement in Saudi Arabia's war effort in neighbouring Yemen, dealing a rebuke to President Donald Trump and his alliance with the kingdom.

France, one of the world's biggest arms exporters, has sold equipment to Riyadh and fellow coalition member the UAE — notably Caesar artillery guns and ammunition, sniper rifles and armoured vehicles.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has been one of the world's top arms buyers for the past several years.

But in 2017, the kingdom's Public Investment Fund set up SAMI to manufacture arms locally with the fund expecting it to become one of the world's top 25 defence companies by 2030.

Naval Group — which was previously called DCNS — has been embroiled in a long-running graft scandal over the 2002 sale of two Scorpene submarines to Malaysia for $1.2 billion. 

The submarine maker is alleged to have paid more than 114 million euros ($128 million) in kickbacks to a shell company linked to a close associate of ousted Malaysian leader Najib Razak. 

A French investigation launched in 2010 has already led to four French executives involved in the deal being charged. They all deny wrongdoing.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

RIVIERA

French beach re-opens to public as Saudis leave

UPDATED: Workers were busily returning a beach in southern France to its previous condition on Monday after the departure of Saudi King Salman, whose commandeering of the coastline had caused uproar among locals.

French beach re-opens to public as Saudis leave
A woman watches as workmen dismantle the lift built for the Saudi royals. Photo: AFP
A few sun-lovers were replanting their parasols while the workers were dismantling controversial constructions, including an elevator from the beach to the king's grandiose villa, built only a fortnight ago for the royal visit.
   
King Salman made an early exit on Sunday from the Cote d'Azur only eight days into what was billed as a month-long vacation.
   
At least half of his 1,000-strong delegation left with him from Nice airport to the Moroccan city of Tangiers, local officials said.
   
More than 150,000 people signed a petition against the closure of the strip of sand in front of the king's villa, which is located near Cannes, and the heavy security measures put in place during his stay.
 

(Workers dismantle the elevator at the beach. Photo: AFP)

   
Others were more welcoming, particularly local traders, who rolled out the red carpet for the monarch and his big-spending friends.
   
Only a few beach-goers showed up for the reopening on Monday, which is near the heavily populated sands of Golfe-Juan and also includes a nudist beach.
   
“It's the caprice of a billionaire,” said retiree Jean-Paul, looking with disdain at the elevator and its unsightly concrete base.
   
“I could understand privatising the beach for a week for security reasons, but a month is a bit much. It's a question of principle,” he said before heading on to the nudist beach.
 

(The king's villa on the Riviera. Photo: AFP)
      
While some residents grumbled at the closure of the beach, local traders rolled out the red carpet for the monarch and his big-spending friends.
   
Some members of the king's entourage had voiced their unhappiness at the level of scrutiny that their arrival induced.
  
It was not immediately clear whether the royal departure was linked to the controversy over the beach.
SHOW COMMENTS