“The war in Yemen is a difficult war. We have turned to support of Saudi Arabia. And if we, the French citizens, do not act, if we don’t try to stop arms sales, we will end as accessories to this business.”
That’s Jean-Paul LeCoq, French National Assembly Member and one of the many people who took to the streets in protest this past week to speak up against the sale of French weapons to Saudi Arabia. The third-biggest arms exporter in the world, France has been struggling to defend its choice, in full knowledge that Yemeni civilians are often the ones who end up on the other end of those weapons. The four-year-long civil war in Yemen has been sustained in part thanks to Saudi military action in the region, and though French president Emmanuel Macron recently assured his people of Saudi Arabia’s promise not to use French weapons to harm civilians, these assurances are more than questionable.
To the surprise of all, the Bahri-Yanbu, the Saudi ship that docked in a French port last week in order to complete one of these controversial arms deals, set sail on Friday, without the weapons it came for. No one is sure what exactly this means for French-Saudi relations, but the Bahri-Yanbu certainly left behind a relieved, if confused, French public.