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Defence Minister says Finland exports protection to UAE, not guns

Jussi Niinistö says Finland will honor the export of defence vehicle refurbishment parts to the UAE despite reports that the carriers are being used in Yemen.

Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The Defence Minister’s comments come after a Finland-based news site reported on video footage (siirryt toiseen palveluun)of Finnish Patria vehicles filmed in Yemen en route to battle in the port of Hudaydah on the Red Sea coast. The UAE is involved in the war against the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen.

Two years ago, Patria sold 40 AMV 8x6 personnel carriers to the United Arab Emirates, adding to the five carriers the Finnish state defence contractor exported there in 2008.

This year the government granted Patria license to export maintenance parts for these vehicles.

Government sees no problem

Niinistö told Yle that Finland has granted Patria license for carriers, not assault vehicles.

”Finland exports protection, not weapons,” he told Yle, adding that he doesn't see a problem in exporting refurbishment parts to vehicles under an old agreement.

The Defence Ministry handles export licenses for minor defence equipment deals while the government handles significant contracts. Parliament has, however, outlined that Finland does not export defence materials to parties at war or states that do not respect human rights.

”Of course we’ll have to carefully weigh orders from that part of the world,” Niinistö said, adding that Spain recently made a U-turn on laser-guided bomb sales to Saudi Arabia, choosing not to walk away from a lucrative deal with the kingdom.

Meanwhile Social Democratic MP and former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja says he would like to see Finland suspend all defence business with Gulf countries.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Office, (siirryt toiseen palveluun) Saudi Arabia is leading the coalition against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels--a conflict that has killed more than 6,600 civilians and injured some 10,000 since 2015.