RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is now the world’s second largest importer of arms after India. The kingdom registered a 225-percent rise in military purchases – almost all from the US and Europe – during the period, the study released on Monday said.
American weapons constitute 61 percent of arms imports to Saudi Arabia and British weapons 23 percent. During the period, the Saudis received 78 combat aircraft, 72 combat helicopters, 328 tanks and 4,000 vehicles, the SIPRI noted.
The same period, it said, saw Israel increasing its arms exports by 55 percent.
Arms remain the main component of UK-Saudi trade and the UK government has approved the export of $6.4 billion in weapons since the start of the war in Yemen, despite allegations that Saudi-led forces have committed war crimes.
Last May, US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia in his first foreign visit, signing a $110-billion deal to sell weapons to the kingdom.
“Widespread violent conflict in the Middle East and concerns about human rights have led to political debate in Western Europe and North America about restricting arms sales,” said senior SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman.
“Yet the US and European states remain the main arms exporters to the region and supplied over 98 percent of weapons imported by Saudi Arabia.”