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French defence minister says Yemen war must stop, but defends Saudi arms sales Open in fullscreen

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French defence minister says Yemen war must stop, but defends Saudi arms sales

France is the world's third biggest arms exporter. [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 October, 2018

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France is the world's third biggest arms exporter and counts the UAE and Saudi Arabia among its biggest purchasers.
Yemen's war must stop, France's Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Tuesday, toughening Paris' stance as photographs of starving children trigger outrage around the world. 

"It is more than time that this war ended and it is also important - even France's priority - that the humanitarian situation must improve and that humanitarian aid can get through," Parly told BFM television and RMC radio. 

"This military situation is an effective dead-end so this war must stop. That's a priority."

Fighting has killed almost 10,000 people since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in the conflict in 2015 and sparked what the UN has labelled the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The world body warned last week that 14 million people in Yemen now face a serious threat of famine, with more than 22 million Yemenis - three quarters of the population - in need of humanitarian assistance.

Like other Western nations, France has come under increasing pressure over its arms supplies to the kingdom since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul this month.

French President Emmanuel Macron insisted last week that sales of weapons to Riyadh - France's second biggest customer after India - have "nothing to do with Mr Khashoggi".

"One shouldn't mix everything up," Macron said, blasting calls to halt arms sales over the killing as "pure demagoguery".

"I can understand the link with Yemen, but there isn't any with Mr Khashoggi," he added.

Parly reiterated her earlier insistence that France does not believe its arms have been used against civilians in Yemen

"To my knowledge, the weapons we have sold recently have not been used against civilians," she said.

She defended France's "relatively modest" weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, saying they were subject to tight restrictions.

She added that France was exerting "relentless pressure" through the United Nations for a political settlement in Yemen.

France is the world's third biggest arms exporter and counts the UAE and Saudi Arabia among its biggest purchasers.

French export licensing procedures have no parliamentary checks or balances and are approved through a committee headed by the prime minister that includes the foreign, defence and economy ministries.

Seventy-five percent of French people want Macron to suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a YouGov poll found.

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