Italy’s 2019 figures show Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to be Italy’s 10th and 11th largest arms export markets.
Italy halted the sale of thousands of missiles to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to their involvement in the conflict in Yemen, making a temporary suspension of 18 months permanent.
“Today I am announcing that the government has revoked the current authorizations for the export of missiles and aerial bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi said on Friday. Di Maio.
“[This is] an act that we considered due, a clear message of peace coming from our country. For us, respect for human rights is an unwavering commitment, ”said Di Maio, who did not mention Yemen but referred to the conflict there when he ordered the initial suspension in July 2019.
The Italian Network for Peace and Disarmament, a campaign group, hailed the move as “historic” and estimated it would see orders for more than 12,700 munitions canceled.
The blocked sales were part of a total allocation of 20,000 missiles worth more than 400 million euros ($ 485 million) agreed in 2016 under a center-left government led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi , said the disarmament group.
It “puts an end, once and for all, to the possibility that thousands of Italian-made ammunition could strike civilian installations, cause casualties among the population or contribute to worsening the already serious humanitarian situation,” the group said.
There had been no public reaction from Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates at the time of publication.
In 2019, several European Union countries froze arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.
The United Nations describes Yemen as the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world, with 80% of its population in need of assistance.
Italy’s latest figures – from 2019 – show Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to rank 10th and 11th on the list of Italy’s largest arms export markets.
Exports to Saudi Arabia were worth 105.4 million euros ($ 128 million), while those to the United Arab Emirates were worth 89.9 million euros ($ 109.1 million).
Arabia, “ a new Renaissance ”
Italy’s move came amid controversy over former Prime Minister Renzi’s appearance at a high-level event hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Renzi, a longtime enemy of Di Maio, is in the spotlight in Rome for withdrawing from the ruling coalition earlier this month and forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
In Riyadh, he spoke at the Future Investment Initiative – dubbed ‘Davos in the Desert’ – in an apparently pre-recorded video with the prince, also known as MBS.
Despite long-standing concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, Renzi said the Gulf oil monarchy “could be the site of a new renaissance for the future.”