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MfD: Czech arms export to Saudi Arabia rising unprecedentedly

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Prague, Dec 15 (CTK) – Czech arms dealers have “discovered” Saudi Arabia and the military material export to the country has risen more than six times in the past two years, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote Tuesday, citing data from the Industry and Trade Ministry.

However, Western politicians have shown rising opposition to the armament business due to Riyad´s policy that makes Saudi Arabia a source of international instability, the daily wrote.

In 2014, when Czech arms dealers found a new lucrative market outlet in Saudi Arabia, they exported weapons worth 1.9 billion crowns to the country. This is the highest sum since 2005 when the ministry started monitoring the data, the paper writes.

According to the ministry´s annual report for 2014, the exports to Saudi Arabia made up 16 percent of the total Czech arms exports that year, six times more than in 2013, the daily wrote.

Naturally, the weapons were not exported by the Czech state but by private companies that need the relevant licence. The licences are granted by the Industry and Trade Ministry, which consults their issuance with the Interior Ministry, Defence Ministry and mainly the Foreign Ministry which decides in accordance with the country´s foreign policy and interests abroad, MfD writes.

Irrespective of the recent sharp increase in the Czech arms exports to Saudi Arabia, the proportion of the exported items remains unchanged.

Over a half of the exports are lorries, which the Czech-based Tatra producer supplies to the Saudi military.

“A crushing majority of the lorries are logistic vehicles designed for the transportation of people or material,” the paper quotes Tatra´s spokesman Andrej Cirtek as saying.

He said the lorry exports increased last year based on the partnership agreement that Tatra signed with the Saudi military in 2013. The agreement also includes the construction of an armament plant for the Saudi to produce certain goods by themselves, MfD writes.

Apart from lorries, Czech firms also export protective materials to Saudi Arabia, and also hand arms cartridges, the export of which doubled and reached the value of almost 200 million crowns in 2014, the paper writes.

The Saudi defence budget of 80 billion dollars is comparable with Russia´s. At the same time, Saudi Arabia is the world´s largest importer of military technologies, which is why Czech companies have been striving to succeed on the lucrative market, the daily writes.

Western politicians, however, question Riyad´s controversial policies such as its involvement in the war in Yemen, support for the Syrian branch of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, and mass executions in the country, MfD writes.

In November, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond admitted that if Britain were to continue exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, it should first thoroughly examine Riyad´s activities in Yemen.

According to the German secret service, the Saudi are on the path of becoming the main source of instability in the region, MfD writes.

Czech human rights organisations, too, warn of the harmfulness of the Saudi armament.

“Saudi Arabia is governed by one of the world´s most repressive regimes,” says the Nesehnuti NGO.

“In practice, the Czech trade in military materiel has deflected from the Prague-declared principles of foreign policy,” the Czech branch of Amnesty International wrote in its memorandum for responsible arms exports a week ago.

In reaction to criticism, the Foreign Ministry said it assesses every export project from the viewpoint of a possible abuse of the materiel for suppressing human rights.

According to the ministry´s information, the armament of the Saudi military is not linked to the conflict in Yemen, the ministry told MfD.

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