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Italy lifts arms export limit to Saudi Arabia

The move follows the ceasefire in Yemen and months of subsiding conflict between the warring parties, as it did with the UAE. Here's why

Rome drops arms export restrictions to Riyadh. On Wednesday, the Italian government lifted the partial limitations to weapons exports towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which were established by the previous legislature in 2019 and 2020 – when Giuseppe Conte was Prime Minister – to prevent their use in the war in Yemen.

  • “The rationale behind these measures has now disappeared,” said the Council of Ministers in an official note, pointing at the improving situation on the ground to explain why it had certified that the export of bombs and missiles to Riyadh does not fall within the established ban.

Delve deeper. “The regional context in Yemen has changed, starting with developments on the ground. Since April 2022, also thanks to the ceasefire agreed between the parties, military activities have slowed down considerably and have been restricted. The significant reduction in war operations entails an equally significant mitigation of the risk of misuse of aerial bombs and missiles, particularly against civilian targets. Riyadh has pursued intensive diplomatic activity in support of UN mediation while also acting decisively on the economic and humanitarian assistance front,” reads the government’s note.

  • The quelling of hostilities is allowing international bodies, including the United Nations, to focus on the long-lasting and still-acute humanitarian crisis in Yemen. According to the UN’s latest, although progress has been achieved in the field of food insecurity, 17 million people are still exposed to it.

Think reconciliation. The government’s decision is in line with that taken in April on the parallel limitations imposed on the United Arab Emirates. That move indicated a thawing in the then-frosty relationship between Rome and Abu Dhabi, catalysed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Defence Minister Guido Crosetto’s trip to the UAE.

  • Italy and the UAE are now keen to relaunch defence and security cooperation, as confirmed by lifting the ban. Arguably, the decision on Saudi Arabia is also conductive to a similar rapprochement.

Gazing East. These moves are in line with the Meloni government’s efforts to bolster Rome’s outreach in the MENA area and increase its weight across sectors – ranging from security to the energy transition and including regional cooperation mechanisms.

  • Upgrading ties with India to “strategic” was part of this foreign policy push, as Rome also becomes more engaged with the security dimension of the Indo-Pacific…
  • … and shows it’s more aware of maintaining its presence in the name of indivisible security, a concept whereby upsetting the balance in one area across the world immediately affects other areas.

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