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Spain, Saudi sign $2.2bn warship deal amid outcry over Yemen war

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal shake hands after signing a warship deal in Madrid on April 12, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Spain has signed a €1.8 billion ($2.2 billion) framework deal with Saudi Arabia to sell warships to the kingdom amid outcry over Riyadh's deadly military aggression against Yemen.

The agreement requires Spain's state-owned shipbuilder Navantia to sell five small warships to the Saudi Royal Navy, while Spain’s army trains Saudi military personnel and contractors build a naval construction center in the Arab kingdom, Reuters reported Thursday.

The Saudi crown prince and defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman, who is on a state visit to the European country, signed the deal after meeting with Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal in Madrid.

This concludes three years of negotiations since 2015 to sign the warship deal, although insiders told Reuters that its finalization would take longer to complete.

The agreement was followed by a separate deal between the Saudi Military Industries Company and Navantia. No details were made available about the nature of the deal signed by the chairman of the Board of Directors of Saudi Military Industries Ahmed al-Khatib and Navantia's CEO, Esteban Garcia.

The two sides signed four more bilateral deals on a variety of issues, including air transport, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation.

Spain has come under fire for selling weapons to Saudi Arabia despite the regime's brutal war against the people of Yemen.

Campaign groups Amnesty International, Spain’s FundiPau, Greenpeace and Oxfam are some of the activist groups that have called on Spain to stop selling military equipment to the Saudis, accusing them of abusing rights.

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched the war on Yemen in March 2015 to reinstall its former Riyadh-allied government. The military aggression has so far killed over 14,000 Yemenis and put millions on the verge of famine. It has also caused a deadly outbreak of cholera.

European countries like France and Britain have provided billions in weapons to the Saudi military amid international calls to halt their arms deals.

Upon arrival in the Spanish capital, bin Salman, who controls his country's economic and energy policy, was welcomed by Spain’s King Felipe VI at the Zarzuela Palace.

The king also threw a luncheon attended by senior Spanish officials and businessmen. The Saudi crown prince met with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy later in the day.

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