A study shows weapons imports to the Middle East and Asia have soared over the past five years, with Saudi Arabia leading the steep rise amid its bloody war on Yemen.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), arms imports to the Middle East between 2013 and 2017 jumped by 103 percent compared with the previous five-year period.
Saudi Arabia is now the world’s second largest importer of arms after India. The kingdom registered a 225-percent rise in military purchases – almost all from the US and Europe – during the period, the study released on Monday said.
American weapons constitute 61 percent of arms imports to Saudi Arabia and British weapons 23 percent. During the period, the Saudis received 78 combat aircraft, 72 combat helicopters, 328 tanks and 4,000 vehicles, the SIPRI noted.
The same period, it said, saw Israel increasing its arms exports by 55 percent.
“The US and European states remain the main arms exporters to the region and supplied over 98 percent of weapons imported by Saudi Arabia,” it said.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia signed a preliminary deal to buy 48 Typhoon jets worth as much as $10 billion.
Saudi Arabia already operates more than 70 Typhoon jets. They have been used extensively in the Yemen war, and the deal is likely to spark outrage among rights groups and campaigners.
Arms remain the main component of UK-Saudi trade and the UK government has approved the export of $6.4 billion in weapons since the start of the war in Yemen, despite allegations that Saudi-led forces have committed war crimes.
The United Kingdom has increased its weapons sales by around 500 percent since March 2015, The Independent reported last November.
Last May, US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia in his first foreign visit, signing a $110-billion deal to sell weapons to the kingdom.
“Widespread violent conflict in the Middle East and concerns about human rights have led to political debate in Western Europe and North America about restricting arms sales,” said senior SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman.
“Yet the US and European states remain the main arms exporters to the region and supplied over 98 percent of weapons imported by Saudi Arabia.”
More than 13,600 people have died since the Saudi-led invasion began, and Yemen has turned into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.