Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, on Sunday defended his government’s controversial decision to go ahead with the delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, saying it was needed to preserve good ties with the Gulf state.
His Socialist government announced earlier this month that it would block the delivery of the weapons amid concerns that they “could harm” civilians in Yemen where Saudi Arabia is leading a brutal aggression.
But on Thursday Foreign Minister Josep Borrell announced the government had decided to deliver the weapons after all, angering humanitarian groups.
Cancellation of the deal would jeopardize a much larger order for five Corvette warships worth 1.8 billion euros, to be built by Spain’s Navantia shipyard in the southern region of Andalusia, with thousands of jobs at stake.
Workers in the region, a stronghold of the ruling Socialist Party, had staged demonstrations pressing for the deal to go ahead.
Asked about the policy reversal during an interview with private television La Sexta, Sanchez said his government risked “creating the image that it was revising its entire relationship” with Saudi Arabia if it did not deliver the weapons.
“The situation was very complicated. The dilemma the government faced was breaking its commercial, economic and political ties with Saudi Arabia, with the impact this could have in some areas of the country, such as the Bay of Cadiz, or carry out a contract signed by the previous government,” he added.