Italy on Friday revoked approval for arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over the conflict in Yemen, making permanent an 18-month temporary suspension.
“Today I am announcing that the government has revoked the authorisations underway for the export of missiles and aircraft bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.
“(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 unbreakable
commitment,” he said.
He did not mention Yemen but had referenced the conflict there when he ordered the initial suspension in July 2019.
According to Italy’s latest figures, dating to 2019, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ranked 10th and 11th in the list of the biggest markets for Italian arms exports.
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.
Italy’s decision came in the wake of controversy over former premier Matteo Renzi’s guest appearance at a high-level event hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Matteo #Renzi, former Italian PM, the man who started Italy’s government crisis.
This week as the crisis rolls on, he could be found chatting with Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman. Renzi said “Saudi Arabia could be the place for a new Renaissance.”pic.twitter.com/C3kY8Bxv9m
— Giulia Saudelli (@giuliasaudelli) January 28, 2021
Renzi, a longstanding foe of Di Maio, is under the spotlight for pulling his party’s support for 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.
Despite longstanding concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, Renzi described the prince as his “friend” and said the Gulf oil monarchy “could be the place of a new Renaissance for the future”.
Italian newspaper Domani, which broke the story of Renzi’s Saudi trip, said he receives $80,000 a year for being on the advisory board of the FII.
Renzi said on Friday that this is not the time to question him about his Saudi trip and that he will answer questions Italy’s political crisis is resolved.