Spanish government under fire over arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Madrid reverses decision to cancel sale of 400 laser-guided bombs arguing it had to "honor a contract"

ACN | Barcelona

September 17, 2018 06:01 PM

The Spanish government announced at the beginning of September that it would cancel the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Yet, only days later, the Socialist executive reversed the decision, arguing that it had to "honor a contract" signed by the previous administration.

This has prompted organizations, such as Amnesty International, to urge the Spanish government to rectify.

"States that are still supplying arms to the Saudi-Arabia-led coalition risk going down in history as being complicit in war crimes in Yemen," said Amnesty International in a press release.

"Campaigners barely had time to welcome the news that Spain was cancelling a major arms shipment to Saudi Arabia before the government began backpedaling to appease its wealthy customer," said Steve Cockburn, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

A left-wing Spanish MEP from the Izquierda Unida party, Marina Albiol, asked the European Commission if Spain's decision to go ahead with the sale is in violation of the Council rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment.

Swedish Green MEP Bodil Valero said the Spanish president should "study article 10 of the Council Common Position" on arms exports. "Jobs issues can never legitimize exporting arms to a country at war," she said.

Spanish president Pedro Sánchez said during an interview on Sunday that he had decided to go ahead with the sale to avoid "putting at risk" jobs in the south of Spain related to business contracts with Saudi Arabia.  

The Spanish government spokeswoman, Isabel Celáa, said on Friday that the bombs are "laser-guided" and "there won't be any mistakes killing Yemeni people." The comments prompted criticism from across the political spectrum and a public outcry.