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US tops world’s weapons supplier, Saudi Arabia biggest importer: Sweden-based think tank

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file picture, Saudi army officers walk past F-15 fighter jets, GBU bombs and missiles displayed during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the creation of the King Faisal Air Academy at King Salman air base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by AFP)

A recent report has revealed that more than a third of the global arms sold worldwide during the past five years originated in the United States, while Saudi Arabia was the world's largest weapons importer during the period.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report on Monday that the US accounted for 37 percent of global arms sales between 2016 and 2020.

Almost half of its sales (47 percent) went to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia being the main recipient of US arms transfers in 2016–20, accounting for 24 percent of US arms exports.

The Sweden-based research institute highlighted that US exports increased 15% compared to the previous five-year period, 2011-2015.

SIPRI added that in its latest review of global arms transfers international deliveries of arms were basically flat in the 2016-2020 period, ending more than a decade of increases.

It was the first time since 2001–2005 period that the volume of deliveries of major arms between countries — an indicator of demand — did not increase from the previous five-year period.

Russia, the world's second-largest exporter, accounted for one-fifth of global arms deliveries. However, Russia saw its exports drop by 22 percent, largely due to a fall in deliveries to India.

France was the third largest exporter, on 8 percent, and recorded several large deals with, among others, India, Egypt and Qatar, SIPRI said.

Germany and China completed the list of the top five exporters.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria were the largest recipients of Chinese arms.

Saudi Arabia tops as largest importer

Middle Eastern countries accounted for the biggest increase in arms imports, importing 25% more in 2016-20 compared to the previous five-year period.

The biggest increases came from Saudi Arabia (61%), Egypt (136%) and Qatar (361%).

Asia and Oceania was the largest importing region for major arms, receiving 42% of global arms transfers.

India, Australia, China, South Korea and Pakistan were the biggest importers in the region.

SIPRI said that it was too early to tell whether a recession stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic could slow down arms deliveries.

“The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could see some countries reassessing their arms imports in the coming years. However, at the same time, even at the height of the pandemic in 2020, several countries signed large contracts for major arms,” Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at SIPRI, said.

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