Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, and Spain’s then-Defence Minister Maria Dolores Cospedal shake hands after signing bilateral agreements in the presence of then-Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy, right, on April 12, 2018.
Spain said Tuesday they have canceled the delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs purchased by Saudi Arabia, amid fears that the weapons may be used against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The arms deal was originally signed in 2015 under Spain’s former conservative government, nevertheless the new center-left administration of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez intends to return the €9.2 million (U.S. $10.7 million) already paid from the Saudis, Cadena SER radio reported Tuesday.
A Defense Ministry spokeswoman confirmed the report, but declined to elaborate. She has not been authorized being identified in media reports.
International rights groups have blamed a Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes as well as other attacks in Yemen for the killing of civilians, including children.
U.N. human rights experts say the sides, including militias backed by the United Arab Emirates, could possibly have committed war crimes inside the conflict raging since March 2015.
The Saudi embassy in Madrid failed to immediately react to emailed questions and follow-up calls.
Sanchez’s Socialist party had promised to revise the country’s arms deals ahead of the new prime minister ousted his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, in a parliamentary vote in June.
As a longtime commercial ally of Saudi Arabia, Spain is the fourth-largest provider of military equipment and weapons on the Gulf state, according to Amnesty International. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a completely independent global security database, says the United States, Britain and France are Riyadh’s main suppliers.
The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, visited all four countries in April this season. Two months later, his government signed the purchase of five naval corvettes that the Spanish state-owned military shipbuilder has pledged to supply for €2 billion. The contract had been inside the works for years.
The sale was sharply criticized by Weapons Under Control, a campaign trying to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its role in Yemen. The campaign, backed by Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Intermon Oxfam and Spain’s FundiPau, also desires to end exports of weapons to Israel, a country they accuse of violating international laws in Palestinian territories.
The group’s representatives were selecting Spanish trade officials on Tuesday to deliver 1000s of signatures for their campaign, which also advocates for greater transparency inside the sales of military and defense equipment that Spain shields under state secrecy laws.
A U.N. committee urged the international community last month to avoid providing arms that may be used inside Yemen conflict, in mention of Western countries selling sophisticated weapons systems on the Gulf States.
The U.N. says the conflict in Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people in desperate need in what had been the Arab world’s poorest country.