Saudi Arabia Signs Deal For 5 Spanish Warships

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RIYADH — Saudi Ara­bia’s state-owned defence company has forged a deal with Spanish shipbuilder Navantia for a joint venture to build five warships, state media said on Thursday.

The agreement with Saudi Arabian Military In­dustries (SAMI) for the de­sign and construction of five Avante 2200 corvettes war­ships will start this autumn, with the last unit to be deliv­ered by 2022, the official Sau­di Press Agency reported.

The agreement appears part of a framework agreed in April during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Spain for Navantia to provide war­ships to the Gulf state for around two billion euros ($2.3 billion).

A coalition of NGOs including Amnesty Inter­national had urged Madrid not to go ahead with the deal because the corvettes could be used in Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has long been a major global arms importer – but some coun­tries now refuse to sell weapons over the king­dom’s role in the conflict in Yemen, gripped by what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

But Spain’s loss-making shipbuilder Navantia ap­pears to be banking heavily on the agreement, which has reportedly been under negotiation for years.

SAMI says it aims to become a major player in the global defence industry and localise more than half of the kingdom’s military spending by 2030.

The agreement an­nounced on Thursday will generate up to 6,000 jobs for five years, including 1,100 direct jobs, SPA reported.

Under Prince Moham­med’s “Vision 2030”, a pack­age of economic and social reforms aimed at reducing dependence on oil exports, Riyadh plans to spend 32 billion euros in transporta­tion infrastructure in the next decade.

Spanish firms have al­ready won two major infra­structure contracts in Sau­di Arabia in recent years.

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