Khashoggi fallout: Arms license applications to be examined “with the greatest circumspection”
Friday, 19 October 2018
As the outpouring of condemnations continues over two weeks after the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi following a visit to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Wallonia’s Government – owner of FN Herstal which sells arms to Riyadh – says it will examine future applications for arms licenses “with the greatest circumspection”. Khashoggi has not been seen since he entered the consulate on 2 October. According to the Turkish press, he was tortured, decapitated and dismembered there.
Wallonia’s reaction is a careful one, similar to that of the many other States or regions that have stopped short of brandishing the threat of economic sanctions against Riyyad or breaking off ties with the Saudi Government.
On the other hand, the list of companies cancelling their participation in the Future Investment Initiative, the big economic conference to be held in the Saudi capital from 23 to 25 October, continues to grow apace, at the risk of jeopardizing their relations with the Middle Eastern kingdom.
Wallonia’s weapons industry also has close ties with Saudi Arabia, which was its biggest client in 2017, purchasing 153 million euros in arms and ammunition from the Walloon arms manufacturing industry.
“”This is a big issue for us; we are following the situation very closely and we shall analyse future dossiers containing requests for weapons licenses with the greatest circumspection,” said Wallonia’s Prime Minister, Willy Borsus, who is in charge of the region’s arms export licenses.
Wallonia has a 100% share in FN Herstal, a public weapons company that employes close to 1,500 persons in the south of the country.
Socialist parliamentarian Olga Zrihen was anything but satisfied by Wallonia’s stance. “I can understand that it’s important for FN, but can we continue to have trade relations with a country that flouts human rights to such an extent?” she wondered. “One can be shocked that the Walloon reaction, but also that of Belgium and Europe, is not tougher when we regularly receive reports alerting us to an inadmissible situation.”
“Clear sanctions need to be taken, at all levels, and against all countries that threaten press freedom,”Zrihen stressed. “And if the trade aspect is at stake, let us look at it within the European framework and demand guarantees. This silence in the face of the unspeakable is no longer possible.”