Home » Italian gov’t upholds decision to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia

Italian gov’t upholds decision to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia

In response to a parliamentary question tabled by the opposition, the executive said the reasons for suspending arms sales don't exist because the context “has changed”. Meanwhile, FM Tajani embarks on a two-day mission to Riyadh

Rome stands by selling arms to Riyadh. In late May, the Italian government lifted the ban on selling certain kinds of armaments to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – namely aeroplanes, bombs and missiles. On Tuesday, the executive again defended that decision in response to a parliamentary question tabled by Laura Boldrini (Democratic Party), who had asked it to consider reinstating the ban. This happened as Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani readied to fly to Riyadh for a mission taking place Wednesday through Thursday.

  • The opposition MP pointed at a recent Human Rights Watch report, according to which hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the civil war in Tigray were killed by Saudi border guards between March 2022 and June 2023 with the use of mortars, grenades and machine gun fire as they attempted to enter Saudi Arabia.

It’s different now. Parliament imposed the weapons ban through acts in 2019 and 2020, as the war in Yemen raged on more intensely. However, as the executive stressed, the conditions underpinning the decision don’t exist anymore. “The context has changed. Military activities remain limited. The truce has, in fact, held. There has been no resumption of hostilities on the ground beyond episodic clashes.”

  • Reports of serious human rights violations on the Yemen-Saudi border are nonetheless a cause for concern, stressed the government, and Italy remains committed to “consider the activation of instruments within the multilateral framework.”

Diplomacy is working. “On a humanitarian level, the situation remains difficult, but there has been a decrease in the number of internally displaced persons and civilian casualties due precisely to the marked reduction in the armed conflict,” explained the executive. Moreover, “United Nations mediation has been complemented by the efforts of some countries in the region, in particular Saudi Arabia,” which has “initiated direct contacts with the Houthis and carried out intense diplomatic activity in support of UN mediation, acting in a decisive manner on the economic and humanitarian assistance front.”

  • Italy “has always conveyed messages of restraint to avoid the risk of a new escalation. We continue to support the efforts of the UN and the actors involved. We believe that the only solution to the conflict in Yemen is based on an inclusive political process, involving – in a spirit of compromise – all the parties concerned.”

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