Government bans military sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

Policy reversal for Finland after previously stating there was no way to restrict sales to a specific country.

File picture of Patria AMV / Credit: Patria

The government has decided to ban all military sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The decision comes after a News Now Finland investigation highlighted for the first time the extent that Finnish-made Patria vehicles, some fitted with Russian heavy weapons, were being used by UAE forces in parts of Yemen where the United Nations says civilian massacres took place.

“The decision was made very much on foreign policy grounds” says Jukka Salovaara, Director General of Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The intention is not to revoke old licenses retroactively, but we will not grant new permissions for any new sales, under the present circumstances” Salovaara tells News Now Finland.

State-owned company Patria has sold dozens of armoured modular vehicles known as AMVs to the UAE government. The government, and relevant ministries, continued to grant export licenses for spare parts to keep the AMVs on the road even as the extent of fighting, civilian casualties, and famine was known as late as July this year.

A lighter-armed Patria AMV deployed in Yemen, 12th August 2018 / Credit: Sky News Arabia

U-turn for the government

Today’s decision is a stunning policy u-turn for the Finnish government, and comes after sustained pressure from campaigners and charities; as well as media stories highlighting the issues of civilian deaths inflicted by all sides in the conflict as well as the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Earlier this year government special adviser Riikka Pitkänen told the media there was “no way of restricting exports to individual countries”. It seems a way has now been found.

“This is an important move from the Finnish government and follows similar statements by Norway and Denmark. We do not want to see Finnish military equipment fuelling the war in Yemen. It’s important that the international community is finally increasing pressure on warring parties in Yemen” says Tapio Laakso an Advocacy Advisor for Save the Children Finland.

Desperate humanitarian situation

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the “alarming humanitarian situation in Yemen” was a deciding factor for the export ban.

Aid agencies have warned that millions of people are at risk of starvation as fighting has displaced them, disrupted food supply chains, and stopped humanitarian assistance reaching those most in need.

“Yemen is on the brink of famine in the crisis that is completely man-made. Despite the challenges, Save the Children continues to deliver aid inside Yemen but we need immediate cease-fire and all parties to engage the peace process” says Tapio Laakso.