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'No evidence' French weapons resulted in Yemen civilian casualties

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meeting with French Defence Minister Florence Parly in Jeddah, 8 July 2018.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meeting with French Defence Minister Florence Parly in Jeddah, 8 July 2018. Photo: Stringer/SPA/AFP

French Defence Minister Florence Parly on Thursday denied that French weapons sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed as part of ongoing offensives in the war in Yemen. The French government had come under fire for allegedly allowing French arms to be used in the conflict, resulting in civilian casualties.

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“To my knowledge, these weapons are not used in an offensive manner in this war in Yemen,” Parly told Radio Classique in an interview, according to reports from the AFP news agency.

“In any case, I don’t have evidence that enables me to say that French weapons have caused civilian casualties in Yemen,” she added.

A French-led team of investigative journalists published a story earlier this week showing how France’s military intelligence agency submitted a document detailing how French-made military equipment was deployed in the Yemen conflict. The 15-page report was submitted to the French executive.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the war in Yemen, according to the World Health Organisation. The UN has said it is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The investigation revealed the sale of French-manufactured tanks, armoured vehicles, fighter jets, helicopters, artillery, ammunition and radar systems to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partner, the UAE.

The intelligence agency report contained a map estimating that more than 430,000 people live within the range of French artillery weapons on the Saudi-Yemeni border, according to the Disclose investigative journalism website.

The investigation, entitled the “Yemen Papers”, contradicted French government statements about its awareness of how French-made weapons were being deployed in the conflict.

French lawmaker Sebastien Nadot in parliament holds up a banner that reads, 'France kills in Yemen', 19 February 2019.
French lawmaker Sebastien Nadot in parliament holds up a banner that reads, 'France kills in Yemen', 19 February 2019. Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

Defense Minister Parly had said in January that she had “no knowledge as to whether [French] weapons are being used directly in this conflict”.

Rights group Amnesty International launched a petition calling for an end to arms sales by France to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In a statement, it said France “continues to supply weapons, despite an increased risk that they may be used to facilitate or commit serious human rights violations in Yemen”.

The conflict in Yemen pits a regional pro-government coalition led by Saudi Arabia against the Iran-linked Huthis.

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