Previous PP government secretly backed Saudi Arabia in Yemen conflict, claim

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WAR CLAIMS: Robles (inset) said the PP had backed the Saudis while in power CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons (both)

SPAIN’S former conservative Partido Popular (PP) government put the country at risk internationally by selling arms to and backing Saudi Arabia over the Yemen conflict, a current minister has claimed.

Defence Minister Margarita Robles said the PP left Spain in a “very bad” position over what she alleged was its secret backing of the Saudis in the Yemen Civil War. The support and sale of arms to Riyadh damaged Spain’s credibility, Robles added.

The minister’s comments follow Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s defence of the sale of some 400 bomb to the Saudis last month.

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It also comes as it was revealed that the Saudis are among the leading buyers of Spanish made arms.

Robles said the PP’s current leader Pablo Casado should acknowledge his party’s role in what she claimed was the tainting of Spain’s international credibility of its support for the Saudis.

The support had gone against the values of the United Nations (UN), she added.

“I see that it seems there were secret agreements to support wars in some countries. These agreements put Spain at risk,” Robles said.

Robles previously suspended the sale of hundreds of bombs to the Saudis over concerns they could be used in the Yemen Civil War. The conflict has seen several civilians killed and injured.

The government later backtracked on the cancellation in an effort to save a €1.8 billion contract to build five corvettes for the Royal Saudi Navy.

The state-backed company Navatia is currently building the vessels and around 6,000 jobs were said to be riding on it.

PP deputies in Spain’s parliament accused Robles of being a “danger” to Spaniards due to her actions over the contract.

Maria Jose Garcia Pelayo, of the PP, said Robles had been “irresponsible” in her decision making.

“You have been discredited as a minister and you have contaminated your government, the country and Navatia. Apologise,” she said.

Spanish law states that sales of arms can be revoked if it is suspected they may be used to disturb regional and global peace and security or violate human rights.

Alberto Estevez, an expert in defence with the NGO Amnesty International, said Spain had “zero” mechanisms for determining the use of arms sold to the Saudis. The government could be an accomplice in war crimes as a result, he added.

Sanchez said last month the government had chosen to prioritise jobs and Spain’s commercial relationship with the Saudis by letting the sale of the bombs go ahead.

Saudi Arabia came fifth in the ranking of countries who bought arms from Spain in 2017, according to government data.

A total of €496 million arms exports to the Saudis were authorised and €270.2 million-worth was delivered to the country. Saudi Arabia was the largest buyer of arms if European Union (EU) and NATO countries are discounted.

The Yemen Civil War has claimed the lives of between 10,000 and 50,000 people, including 6,592 civilians. Thousands more have died due to disease and famine in the country.

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