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Spain: PM defends sending weapons to Saudi Arabia

Spain: PM defends sending weapons to Saudi Arabia

Spanish prime minister sees nothing illegal in sending the laser-guided weapons to Saudi Arabia, which has extremely tense relations with Yemen, TheLocal reported. Pedro Sanchez defends his Cabinet’s decision, saying that the keeping a good relationship with the Gulf state is an important aspect of Spain’s foreign policy.

Sanchez government’s controversial decision to go ahead with the delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia wasn’t illegal or unexpected, Spanish PM insisted during his interview with La Sexta, it was needed to preserve good ties with Saudi Arabia. The ruling Socialist government headed by Mr Sanchez have already announced that it would block the delivery of the weapons amid concerns that they could harm civilians in Yemen where Saudi Arabi is engaged in a bloody conflict.

Such a U-turn of the Spanish government arose many questions but on Thursday, Foreign Minister Josep Borrell announced the government had decided to deliver the weapons after all. That news made humanitarian groups angry, however, cancellation of the deal would jeopardise a much larger order for five Corvette warships worth EUR 1.8 billion.

In fact, the giant ships should be built by Spain’s Navantia shipyard in the southern region of Andalusia, and that automatically means thousands of jobs at stake. Workers in the region, a stronghold of the ruling Socialist Party, had staged demonstrations pressing for the deal to go ahead.

Spain and Saudi Arabia: weapon delivery’s dilemma

Spanish PM argued that his government risked “creating the image that it was revising its entire relationship” with Saudi Arabia if it did not deliver the weapons.

“The situation was very complicated. The dilemma the government faced was breaking its commercial, economic and political ties with Saudi Arabia, with the impact this could have in some areas of the country, such as the Bay of Cadiz, or carry out a contract signed by the previous government,”

Sanchez added.

Both Kingdoms have a long and fruitful history, they are longtime allies, and the weapon contracts are always on the list of mutual deals. Saudi Arabia had already paid EUR 9.2 million for the bombs under a 2015 contract, while Madrid has obtained juicy engineering contracts to build a high-speed railway linking Mecca and Medina, and a metro in Riyadh for the warship contract.