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Denmark suspends Saudi weapon export approvals over Khashoggi and Yemen

Denmark, which issued ten such approvals last year, follows Norway and Germany as the latest nation to take action against the kingdom
Tens of thousands of people have died in Yemen and the conflict has caused a major humanitarian catastrophe (AFP)

Denmark has suspended future approvals of weapons and military equipment exports to Saudi Arabia in response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the kingdom's role in the conflict in Yemen, the Danish foreign ministry has said.

"In view of the continuing worrying situation in Yemen, the case of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and recent discussions among the EU foreign ministers, I have decided Denmark will suspend the export approval of arms to Saudi Arabia," Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen tweeted on Thursday.

"Denmark already has very restrictive practices in this area, but I hope that the Danish decision can create further momentum and get more E.U. countries to support tight implementation of the E.U.'s regulatory framework in this area."

Denmark issued ten such approvals last year, according to the ministry. Already given approvals will not be suspended, a spokesman said.

The suspension also includes some dual-use technologies, a term for materials that might be used for military purposes.

In June 2017, the Information, a Danish newspaper, reported that Denmark sold technology to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that could allow them to monitor critics.

According to the report, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, a subsidiary of the UK's BAE Systems, sold the equipment with the approval of the Danish government.

The company sold technology which allowed "IP surveillance and data analysis for use in national security and investigation of serious crimes," the newspaper said.

Saudi Arabia, one of the world's biggest weapons importers, currently heads a military coalition fighting against rebel Houthis in Yemen.

Tens of thousands of people have died and the conflict has caused a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Trump support

Germany has already suspended issuing future weapons export licences and has moved to halt all arms sales, while France said on Monday said it will decide soon on sanctions over Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.

Norway also suspended new licenses for arms exports to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, but the UK and Spain have signalled they will keep selling weapons to Riyadh.

Canada's Justin Trudeau said he would consider freezing arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia, but that suspending an already approved $12bn deal with Riyadh would cost Canadian taxpayers $1bn.

Last Thursday, three Republican and three Democrat US senators introduced legislation seeking to sanction Saudi Arabia over the death of Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.

If it were to become law, the bill would suspend weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and impose sanctions on anyone blocking humanitarian access in Yemen and anyone supporting the Houthis.

A day earlier, the Republican majority in the House had managed to block a Democrat-sponsored resolution to end Washington's support for the Saudi-led coalition by advancing a bill to remove gray wolves from the protected species list. 

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump said Washington intended to stand by Saudi Arabia despite the "unacceptable and horrible crime" committed against Khashoggi.

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