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SaferGlobe: Middle East still a major importer of arms from Finland

A government decision to suspend arms exports to some countries is not reflected in 2018 figures, the watchdog said.

Patria AMV 8x8 -panssariajoneuvo.
Finnish defence contractor Patria has played a major role in Finnish arms exports. Image: AOP

Finnish arms exports totalled around 205 million euros in 2018, according to data gathered by the peace and security non-profit, SaferGlobe Finland. The organisation released figures on Monday indicating that most Finnish ordnance was shipped to the European Union, followed by the Middle East.

During the period from 2002 to 2013, the main destinations for Finnish arms exports were the European Union and North America, SaferGlobe said. However from 2014 to 2018, the Middle East became either the largest or second-largest annual importer of military materiel from Finland in terms of euros spent. Within that group the most important export destinations were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

"It's surprising that so little has changed. For some time the Middle East has been a major recipient of arms exports from Finland. Given the sensitive situation in the Middle East and the conflicts going on in Yemen in particular, one would have expected to see some change in 2018 but it wasn't reflected in the figures," SaferGlobe researcher Kari Paasonen told Yle News.

Record exports of naval vessels

In a statement released on Monday, Paasonen said that the Finnish government's recent decision to suspend arms export licenses to countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey are not yet reflected in the 2018 analysis.

"Export licenses granted before the decision were not revoked and many of them are valid for years. The decision to withhold export licenses to these countries will likely show in future statistics as reduced exports to the Middle East," he explained.

Of total exports last year, war materiel accounted for 128 million euros sold mainly to military or government authorities. Finland also sold nearly 77 million euros in civilian weaponry abroad.

"Finland has exported a lot of civilian arms for hunting and sport shooting to the United States. This has been the situation for several years. This is not surprising given the big gun culture in the United States," Paasonen told Yle News.

Overall, the biggest importers of Finnish arms in 2018 were Poland, the United States, Sweden, Turkey, Oman, France and the United Arab Emirates. The value of all arms exports was about the same as in 2016 and 2017, but SaferGlobe noted that exports in 2018 were well above the average for the period 2002 to 2017.

There were some changes in the overall composition of arms sales in 2018, SaferGlobe said. On average, armoured military vehicles accounted for more than one-third and in certain years past more than half of the value of arms exports. However in 2017 and 2018, military vehicles represented just 15 or 17 percent of the arms trade, respectively. Naval vessels used by the military or other government authorities accounted for a record 12 percent of arms exports in 2018.

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