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The New Arab

Sweden attempts to appease Saudi Arabia through arms deals

Stefan Loefven faced criticism for flattering remarks about women's rights in Saudi Arabia [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 October, 2016

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A delegation of Swedish politicians and business traders visited Saudi Arabia over the weekend in order to repair relations between the two countries, following last year's falling out.
Swedish prime minister, Stefan Loefven, has faced criticism after visiting Saudi Arabia with the chairman of Sweden’s largest arms manufacturer and making flattering comments about the country’s treatment of women.

Loefven visited Saudi Arabia over the weekend with Marcus Wallenberg, the chairman of Saab Group in order to secure trade deals with the gulf nation.

The official visit came after Sweden’s Defence Committee chairman called for the country to increase weapons sales to Peshmerga fighters in Northern Iraq.

Loefven also made an official visit to a women’s recruitment agency where he made a number of flattering comments about Saudi Arabia’s advocacy of women’s rights.

“Women here say that that the country is going in the right direction - that women's opportunities in the labour market are being developed,” said Loefven.

“But it is clear that there are barriers to women here, just as there are at home in Sweden.”

The prime minister’s visit comes after Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstroem, criticised Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women last year and called the country a "medieval dictatorship", following the flogging of the blogger, Raif Badawi. Sweden also canceled its arms trade deals with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia temporarily cancelled visas for Swedish applications as a result and relations between the two countries have deteriorated ever since.

Loefven and his delegation subsequently arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday evening to meet Kurdish prime minister Nechivar Barzani and to visit a Swedish military training camp in the region.

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