Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has confirmed that his country will cancel an ongoing arms deal with Saudi Arabia following a dispute between Sweden’s Foreign Minister and the Middle Eastern Kingdom.
The dispute arose when Minister Margot Wallstrom’s speech on human rights at an Arab League meeting was blocked by Saudi Arabia. Wallstrom’s speech, which was later published by the Swedish Foreign Ministry, touched upon human rights and women’s issues, as well as the importance of supporting Palestinian statehood.
Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia was not specifically mentioned, the country still made efforts to boycott the speech – which was cancelled following their objections.
Following Saudi Arabia’s ‘strong’ reaction Sweden confirmed that they would not be renewing a controversial arms deal, which was up for review later this year.
In response to the decision Saudi Arabia accused Sweden of “flagrant interference” in the country’s foreign affairs. Saudi Arabia also withdrew ambassador Ibrahim bin Saad al-Ibrahim, leading to further diplomatic difficulties between the two nations.
Although Saudi Arabia accuses Sweden of making harmful criticisms against their country Sweden claims that the decision to end the arms deal was not motivated by the ongoing diplomatic standoff.
“This has been agreed for some time now. It has nothing to do with what has happened in recent days”, claimed Prime Minister Lofven in an interview with Swedish radio.
Saudi Arabia is one of Sweden’s largest buyers of arms, with over $560 billion being made for Swedish companies in the last 3 years. The controversial deal has, however, come under fire by several groups – who have accused Sweden of supporting the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia by continuing to sell arms to their regime.