Spain cancels sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia

Spain said on Tuesday that it has cancelled a 2015 deal to sell 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.

Spain cancels sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia
Yemenis dig graves for children, who where killed when their bus was hit during a Saudi-led coalition air strike in August. Photo: AFP

A defence ministry spokesman confirmed a Cadena Ser radio report that said Spain's new Socialist government planned to return the €9.2 million ($10.6 million) already paid by the Saudis for the arms under a deal signed by the previous conservative administration.

The spokesman declined to elaborate but the announcement comes after an August air strike by the Saudi-led coalition battling rebels in Yemen that killed dozens of civilians, including 40 children.

READ MORE: NGOs urge Spain not to sell warships to Saudi Arabia

The incident sparked a wave of international anger and calls by the United Nations Security Council for a “credible and transparent” investigation.   

The coalition had claimed to have targeted a bus carrying rebels.   

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other allies intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after Shiite Huthi rebels linked to Iran ousted President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's government from the capital Sanaa and seized swathes of the country.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict since then, 2,200 of them children, and sparked what the UN has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Amnesty International says Spain is one of biggest arms exporters to Saudi Arabia.

It and other rights groups, including Greenpeace and Oxfam, on Tuesday urged Spain to stop all arm sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Spain's secretary of state for trade, Xiana Mendez.   

The government did not make any commitment to limit other arms sales to Saudi Arabia during he meeting, Oxfam spokeswoman Lara Contreras told AFP.   

While the 400 bombs which Spain will no longer send to Riyadh represent just “one percent of total arms sales to Saudi Arabia, it sends a clear message that it is important” to the Spanish government, she added.

Spain signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia in April to sell the Gulf Arab state five warships in a deal estimated to be worth around €1.8 billion.



King Juan Carlos under fire for meeting Saudi crown prince

Former Spanish King Juan Carlos was under fire Monday after a photo emerged of him meeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has been tainted by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

King Juan Carlos under fire for meeting Saudi crown prince
The photo was posted on the Twitter account of the Saudi foreign ministry.

The photo, which was released on the Twitter account of the Saudi foreign ministry (@KSAmofaEN), was published in several Spanish newspapers.


#CrownPrince met with former King of #Spain, and #CrownPrince of #Dubai on the sidelines on of the final round of the World Formula 1 championship in #AbuDhabiGP #F1

— Foreign Ministry ?? (@KSAmofaEN) November 25, 2018


Conservative daily El Mundo ran it along with the headline: “The photo of shame”.

Far-left parties Podemos and Izquierda Unida which oppose the monarchy criticised the unexpected meeting between the former monarch and the de facto Saudi ruler at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday. 

 “It is humiliating Spain and Spaniards,” wrote Pablo Echinique, a leading member of Podemos, on Twitter.

Izquierda Unida leader Alberto Garzon questioned the Spanish royal family's friendships, saying on Twitter they are a “faithful reflection of an era that has to end”.

“The Spanish monarchy is a problem not just for the Spanish people as this photograph shows. It's not a simple photo, it is a symbol,” he added.   

Juan Carlos, 80, has long had close ties with the Saudi royal family which has helped Spain to land lucrative contracts in the oil-rich kingdom.   

He abdicated in 2014 after several scandals in favour of his son Felipe VI, who has tried to restore the monarchy's reputation.   

In an online article, El Mundo said the former monarch “is obliged to… have a vision of the state and a sense of opportunity. And right now it is not appropriate to be photographed with the Saudi crown prince.”

Saudi Arabia has faced intense global criticism over the killing of insider-turned-critic Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate on October 2nd.   

He was reportedly dismembered in what Saudi Arabia said was a “rogue” operation but CIA analysis leaked to the US media has pointed the finger at Prince Mohammed.

Riyadh has repeatedly and insistently rejected any suggestion the prince was connected to the killing.

READ MORE: Spanish PM defends selling arms to Saudi despite journalist's death