“A strategic partnership, stronger than ever. » On December 3rd, the Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, welcomed the sale of 12 Caracal military helicopters (Airbus) and 80 Rafale fighter jets (Dassault) to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during the mini Emmanuel Macron’s tour through the Arabian Peninsula.
→ ANALYSIS. Rafale sale: An old partnership between France and the Emirates is to be strengthened
The Emirates has intervened alongside Saudi Arabia in the conflict in Yemen since 2015, which has claimed the lives of more than 377,000 people. On September 3, 2019, the United Nations called on the international community to denounce war crimes and states to refrain from supplying weapons that could be used in the conflict. The UAE has withdrawn from Yemen since February 2020 but still intervenes indirectly through funding and mercenaries.
Can France therefore be considered a partner in the crimes committed in Yemen?The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Armaments Observatory are trying to answer this question. Titled your report “Arms sales: France and the United Arab Emirates, partners in crimes committed in Yemen? », Published on December 11, highlights the manner in which Paris has continued to arm the United Arab Emirates regime, which has been accused on several occasions of violating international law.
Direct and indirect participation
For ten years, the small Gulf Association has been the fifth largest buyer of armaments from France, which is nevertheless committed, under the UN Arms Trade Treaty, to ban the sale or export of arms if it knows that this is the case “might be used” to commit human rights violations. In addition to direct sales of military equipment, the UAE’s defense industry has benefited from French technology transfers. “Between 2014 and 2019, former head of Thales, Frenchman Luc Vigneron, took the helm of Edic, the largest defense industrial group in the UAE, expressing a desire to transfer technology from Thales to the UAE in exchange for arms sales, refers to the report.
For Tony Fortin, director of studies at the Armaments Observatory, these technology transfers have enabled the United Arab Emirates to become autonomous in arms production. “It helped prepare for the war in Yemen. »
The report reveals that material obtained from joint ventures (joint ventures) French companies based abroad found themselves in Yemen in the theater of war. By Thales Advanced Systems, a.s joint venture For example, with C4AS, a subsidiary of Emirates Advanced Investments, Thales is installing and upgrading the communications systems of the United Arab Emirates Air Force.
The United Arab Emirates are not the only customers of France, the world’s third largest arms exporter. Paris is therefore involved in other theaters of conflict (Libya) and has several military cooperation agreements with authoritarian regimes such as Egypt. “France’s international influence goes beyond the military”, explains Tony Fortin.
Despite allegations against several Gulf countries, France is sticking to its trade partnerships with the Emirates, particularly because of the “Dependency on Hydrocarbons”. Furthermore, “France no longer has the means alone for its policy of influence in the region: it is pursuing this policy with the UAE”. In other words, the Emirates provide the funding, France its diplomatic network and its defense contractors. “It’s a mutual dependency”, adds the expert.
Tony Fortin explains that this alliance exacerbates conflicts and the resulting crises: political instability, refugee crisis. “This is a model that needs to be questioned, the current one is no longer viable. » According to him, the French government could fund conflict resolution and prevention. “Instead of the military, France could opt for other forms of influence, such as education or diplomacy. »