The Finnish government has agreed to grant a one-year extension to the permit of Patria, a majority state-owned defence technology provider, to export spare parts to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The decision to extend the permit was made in spite of a report by Verdens Gang, the largest newspaper by circulation in Norway, that an armoured vehicle manufactured by the state-owned company had been sighted in use by the UAE in the ongoing civil war in Yemen. The vehicle had been retroactively fitted with a machine gun.
A spokesperson for the defence technology provider confirmed to both YLE and Verdens Gang that the vehicle captured on video was indeed manufactured by Patria.
Patria stated in a press release that except for the spare parts it has not applied for additional export permits to the UAE. It also stressed that any permit application would be denied if it was deemed that the export project could undermine the security or the foreign policy approach of Finland.
“The Middle East, however, remains a strategically interesting region in the long term,” the technology provider said.
Kongsberg Gruppen, a Norwegian supplier of high-technology systems and solutions, owns 49.9 per cent and the Finnish government 50.1 per cent of shares in the defence technology provider.
Norway has suspended all weapons exports to the UAE.
Patria was granted a permit to export a total of 40 armoured modular vehicles (AMVs) to the UAE in 2016. The vehicles were delivered unarmed before the end of the year after being manufactured in Poland.
The decision to extend the permit was met with dismay by many members of the opposition, including Tuula Haatainen, the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party.
“Does the [extension] deal with the same armoured vehicles that, evidence shows, have been used in the war in Yemen? Does Finland violate international treaties by exporting weapons to a country that’s waging war?” she tweeted on Thursday.
Paavo Arhinmäki (Left Alliance) similarly demanded in the wake of the sighting that the government must recognise the problems associated with its weapons export policy and suspend exports to conflict-affected countries in the Middle East. He also estimated that the focus of the exports has shifted toward the region during the tenure of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre).
Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has warned that Yemen could be facing the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen since the late 1960s.
“Unless the situation changes, we’re going to have the world’s worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years,” he was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera on 5 January.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Pekka Sakki – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi