Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Saudi Arabia is currently in talks with major arms manufacturers of South Africa for wide-ranging deals, a state military firm says, as a Riyadh-led military coalition continues to pound the impoverished Yemeni nation in a war imposed on the Arabian Peninsula country more than three and a half years ago.
Saudi Arabian Military Industries’ (SAMI) Chief Executive Andreas Schwer said on Wednesday that he expected to finalize the first partnership deals with South African arms companies by the end of the year, without mentioning the initial partners by name.
The Arab kingdom is considering an equity stake in the struggling South African state-owned military firm Denel. The African country’s Department of Public Enterprises, which oversees Denel, confirmed that it was in talks with SAMI, but said it was too early to give details of any potential partnership deal.
Separately, the South Africa-based Paramount Group, a privately-held group of companies operating in military and aerospace business, has already announced that it is in talks with Saudi authorities.
“To make it clear, we are in discussions with all major South African companies, not only Paramount, not only Denel,” Schwer said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s third largest military spender after the United States and China, allocated an estimated military budget of nearly $70 billion last year.
“We are in discussions with the South African government in order to identify opportunities to set up strategic partnerships which could include an equity investment from our side into Denel. It’s not decided yet, but it’s one option,” Schwer further said.
He added that Riyadh hoped to get access to South African arms firms’ technology. “They have to commit to transfer their technology to Saudi Arabia and to build up together with us local capabilities, not only manufacturing but also engineering.”
Saudi Arabia and some of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Sudan, launched a brutal war against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crush the country’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, which has played a significant role, alongside the Yemeni army, in defending the nation against the Saudi war machine.
The aggression initially consisted of a bombing campaign but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces to Yemen. Some 15,000 Yemenis have so far been killed and thousands more injured.
More than 2,200 others have also died of cholera, and the crisis has triggered what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.
A number of Western countries, the United States and Britain in particular, are also accused of being complicit in the ongoing aggression as they supply the Riyadh regime with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence assistance.