May 11, 2019 | Story | No Comments
A ship that was set to carry arms to Saudi Arabia has apparently left France without them, a day after a protest at port. Activists rallied to stop the delivery, saying the weapons could be used to slaughter civilians in Yemen.
The Bahri-Yanbu, a cargo ship that was meant to deliver the latest shipment of French weapons to the Gulf kingdom arrived in the port Le Havre on Thursday. Protesters gathered there to denounce their government’s refusal to stop arms trade with Saudi Arabia after reports revealed that French weapons have been used by Riyadh in its four-year-long military campaign in neighboring Yemen.
“Why do we continue to feed countries that have a disrespectful international behavior and why do we continue to fuel the war? The question should be put to the President of the Republic,” said National Assembly member Jean-Yves Lecoq, who took part in the protest.
On Friday, the ship left the French coast and set sail to Spain without loading arms at Le Havre, Reuters reported citing local officials and ship tracking data. This apparently gives at least a temporary win for the protesters.
Earlier French Defense Minister Florence Parly said the shipment did not pose a threat to people in Yemen and was purely defensive. “As far as the French government is aware, we have no proof that the victims in Yemen are the result of the use of French weapons,” Parly said in an interview with BFM. She wouldn’t detail which weapons the ship is to carry to the Saudis.
The French government has been criticized by rights activists for continued arms trade with the Saudis despite a report by the investigative news site Disclose last month. The site leaked a classified military memo, which said French tanks and artillery were used in the war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Disclose said the upcoming shipment included eight truck-mounted Caesar howitzers, but AFP news agency cited a government source as denying this claim.
Saudi Arabia led a coalition of Arab nations supported by the US and the UK to intervene in Yemen in March 2015, after the Houthi ousted a Riyadh-allied president from the country. The Saudis say the rebels are backed by their archenemy Iran and have to be defeated to curb Tehran’s regional influence.
The war led to what the UN calls the largest humanitarian disaster in the world today, with coalition airstrikes and blockades being a major contributing factor. Yemeni civilians are suffering from shortages of food, medicine and fuel and the devastation of infrastructure. They are also regularly killed or injured by coalition airstrikes, which the Saudis insist to be unintended collateral damage.