Spain will go ahead with the delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, engaged in a bloody conflict in Yemen, Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Thursday.
“In the end, the decision is to deliver these bombs to honor a contract dating from 2015,” Borrell said on Spain’s Onda Cero radio on Thursday, September 13.
The government had announced a week ago that it would block delivery of the weapons – for which longtime ally Riyadh has already paid €9.2 million ($10.7 million).
That announcement came after an air strike in August on a crowded market in part of northern Yemen held by Houthi rebels that killed 40 children.
But Defense Minister Margarito Robles mooted a U-turn on the arms deal on Monday.
Asked Wednesday about criticism from humanitarian groups over the deadly bombs, Borrell said they had “extraordinary precision of less than a meter [yard],” and did not cause collateral damage.
Cancellation of the deal would jeopardise a much larger order for five Corvette warships worth €1.8 billion, to be built by Spain’s Navantia shipyard in the southern region of Andalusia, with thousands of jobs at stake.
Workers in the region, a stronghold of the ruling Socialist Party, have staged demonstrations pressing for the deal to go ahead.
Amnesty International says Spain is one of the biggest arms exporters to Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other allies intervened in 2015 after Houthi rebels ousted the government from the capital Sana’a and seized swathes of the country.
Twin strikes south of the rebel-held Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on August 23 killed 26 children and four women, the United Nations has said.
The bombing on a crowded market killed a total of 51 people, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The coalition later announced they were investigating the incident, but U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged an “independent and prompt” investigation.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that he had “certified” Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were acting to reduce risks to civilians in their military operations in Yemen.
With reporting from AFP