Italy's government has blocked weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, foreign minister Luigi Di Maio stated on Friday. Both Gulf states belong to an Arab coalition that has been bombing war-torn Yemen since 2015 in a deadly bid to defeat Houthi rebels and restore president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi's rule.
"Today the government revoked current authorisations for the export of missiles and bombers to Saudi Arabia and the UAE," Di Maio wrote on Facebook.
Italy's move is intended to send a clear message, Di Maio added.
"We consider respect for human rights to an imperative and we will keep going in this direction," Di Maio underlined.
Rome's move follows a campaign by a coalition of organisations campaigning against Italy's arms sales and a pause of billions of dollars worth of arms export to Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced this week by US president Joe Biden, pending a review.
The US freeze on arms sales is understood to include the sale of precision-guided weapons to Saudi Arabia and F-35 fighters to the UAE.
The Saudi-led military coalition's brutal aerial campaign and blockade of Yemen is widely seen to have stoked an acute humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country, where over 110,000 people have died in the six-year-old civil war and 80% of the population requires aid.
Campaign group Amnesty International has documented over 40 coalition air strikes that appear to have violated international humanitarian law, many of which it says amount to war crimes. These have resulted in more than 500 civilian deaths and 400 civilian injured, according to Amnesty.
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