Italy has eased limitations on arms transfers to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in an effort to defuse diplomatic problems with the two Gulf states, according to Reuters which was informed by official government sources.
In January, Italy blocked the sale of thousands of missiles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, citing Rome’s commitment to restoring peace and preserving human rights in the war-torn country of Yemen.
This ban will stay but other restrictions imposed in 2019, which effectively barred any shipments of guns and equipment that could be used in Yemen, will now be lifted, according to a foreign ministry directive seen by Reuters.
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen. Following international outrage over the war, which produced what the UN has dubbed the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, export restrictions to the two Gulf states were tightened two years ago.
Last week, it was reported that the UAE urged Italy to withdraw its aircraft and personnel from a military base in the Gulf state by July 2. This is seen as a retaliation of the UAE for the arms embargo.
Also, Italy’s foreign ministry summoned the UAE Ambassador to Rome earlier this month, according to ANSA news agency, when the Gulf state refused to allow access to its airspace to a military aircraft carrying 40 journalists to Afghanistan, where Italy’s defense minister was visiting at the time.