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Denmark suspends arms sales to Saudi Arabia — but which European countries continue to supply it?

Denmark suspends arms sales to Saudi Arabia — but which European countries continue to supply it?
By Darin Graham
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Denmark is the latest country to halt all future arms exports to Riyadh in response to Khashoggi's death and fighting in Yemen. But what are other European countries doing?


Calls for the suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia have continued since the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi — amid concerns over the kingdom's role in the Yemen conflict.

Denmark is the latest country to halt all future arms exports to Riyadh.

But the Nordic country is a tiny arms exporter on the world map when compared with players such as France, the UK or the United States — Saudi Arabia's largest source of arms.

Copenhagen's decision will likely get European states discussing the matter especially after the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution last month pressing for a European Union-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

Denmark's decision follows Germany's announcement on the suspension of future weapons export licences earlier this month and has moved to stop all arms sales to the Middle East kingdom.

Which European countries supply the most arms to Saudi Arabia?

France exports the most weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to the most recent figures (2016) from the European Union.

Germany, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria all made sales of over €100 million to Saudi Arabia, according to the value of licences issued in 2016.

The table below shows the top 10 values of arms exports sent to Saudi Arabia from EU countries in 2016.

Are other EU countries considering suspending arms exports to Saudi Arabia?


French President Emmanuel Macron last month refused to take questions about halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite Germany's calls on its EU partners to follow its example and suspend exports to the kingdom.

But France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday Paris would impose sanctions against 18 Saudi citizens over the killing of Khashoggi. The 18 Saudis will be put on the country's entry ban list, Le Drian said.

Saudi Arabia is France’s largest market in the Middle East, even without arms sales. French exports to the Gulf nation totalled almost €4 billion ($4.61 billion) between September 2017 to August 2018, according to economy ministry data.

The UK

Previously the top exporter of arms to Saudi Arabia, the UK government has faced mounting pressure over their sales to the Middle Eastern country in previous years.

Despite issuing a joint statement with France and Germany on Sunday condemning the killing of journalists as unacceptable, the UK has not announced an arms freeze.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said it was a "terrible case" but that Britain would not "overreact" and was “not throwing our hands in the air” because thousands of jobs depended on relations with the country.


Spain, has also not suspended exports to Saudi Arabia, despite expressing "consternation" over Khashoggi’s death.


Saudi Arabia was Spain’s third-best weapons customer in the 2013-2017 period, according to the El Pais newspaper.

Back in September, Defence Minister Margarita Robles attempted to halt the sale of 400 guided missiles over concerns about their potential use in the Yemen War.

Yet the prime minister demanded that the transaction go ahead after Riyadh threatened to retaliate by ending a €1.8-billion contract with Spain. Workers also took to the streets in protest demanding their jobs be defended.

Other European countries

Norway, Switzerland, Finland and Greece have also announced the suspension of arms exports to Saudi Arabia over concerns around the Yemen conflict, Rasha Abdul Rahim, an arms control researcher at Amnesty International told Euronews.


"This is welcome news as vast amounts of arms and military equipment have contributed to serious violations by the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition, including possible war crimes," Rahim said.

Will the United States suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia?

Donald Trump's response to Khashoggi's death comes in stark contrast to Germany — shortly after news of the journalist's death, the US president said he did not want to ruin a "tremendous order" of weapons from Saudi Arabia, and that "some form of sanction" would be preferable.

Trump has heralded Saudi Arabia's purchase of $110 billion worth of US arms in 2017, although experts claim this figure was inflated and some parts of the deal appear to still be up in the air.

The President condemned the killing of Khashoggi last month and said Saudi officials had engaged in the "worst cover-up ever."


Trump's administration imposed a penalty on Saudi Arabia, revoking visas for the agents implicated in the killing.

How did Saudi Arabia respond to Khashoggi's killing?

The killing of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government and a columnist at The Washington Post, sparked an international concern over Saudi Arabia's conduct and raised questions about whether the kingdom's crown prince and de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, was involved in the plot.

Last month, the Saudi Press Agency released photos of the Saudi monarch, King Salman, and the crown prince with Khashoggi's son and another member of his family.

The kingdom's foreign ministry wrote on Twitter that Saudi Arabia's leaders shared "their deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of Jamal Khashoggi, may God rest his soul.”


Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Foreign Minister, said last month the kingdom was committed to "a comprehensive investigation" into Khashoggi's death.

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