March 26, 2018 / 3:14 AM / a month ago

Poll shows most French oppose arms sales to Saudi-led Yemen coalition

PARIS (Reuters) - Seventy-five percent of French people want President Emmanuel Macron to suspend arms’ exports to countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, involved in the Yemeni war, a YouGov poll showed on Monday.

France's President Emmanuel Macron arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Pressure has been mounting on Macron to scale back military support for the two Gulf Arab states over concerns that French weapons are being used in the offensive, which marks its third year on Monday.

The two Gulf Arab states are leading a coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls most of northern Yemen and the capital Sanaa. The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than three million.

The poll showed that 88 percent of respondents believed their country should stop arms exports to all countries where there is a risk they could be used against civilian populations and specifically 75 percent for those operating in Yemen.

Seven in 10 people said the government should stop exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“On the occasion of the third anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, it is high time for the (French) government to hear this message,” said Eoin Dubsky, campaign manager for the SumOfUs NGO, which commissioned the survey.

“Emmanuel Macron, who presents himself to the world as a humanist president, must pass from words to deeds.”

The poll comes as some European states, notably Germany, have curtailed ties with the Saudi-led military coalition. France, Britain and the United States have not followed suit.

France is the world’s third-biggest arms exporter and counts Saudi Arabia and the UAE among its biggest purchasers.

Unlike many of its allies, French export licensing procedures have no parliamentary checks or balances, making the system particularly opaque.

The poll showed that 69 percent of people wanted to see a strengthening of the role of the French parliament in controlling arms sales.

The survey was conducted online between March 20-21 with a sample of 1,026 people from various strands of the French population aged 18 and over.

Reporting by John Irish, editing by David Evans

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