Canada has condemned Saudi Arabia’s recent mass execution, but will go through with a controversial arms deal to sell the Kingdom $15 billion worth of weapons.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion released a statement this week decrying the execution of 47 people on January 2. Regardless, Ottawa is not backing out of a deal to supply the Kingdom with armored fighting vehicles.
The transaction will support about 3,000 jobs in Canada for 14 years, the Globe and Mail reported.
“A private company is delivering the goods according to a signed contract with the government of Saudi Arabia. Canada has no intention of cancelling that contract,” Adam Barratt, Director of Communications for Dion, said.
The Globe and Mail further reported that some of the vehicles will feature medium- or high-caliber weapons supplied by a European subcontractor – such as a powerful cannon designed to shoot anti-tank missiles.
Details about the turreted weapons have been slow to emerge because both General Dynamics Land Systems (Canada) and its Belgian supplier CMI Defense, part of CMI Groupe, are saying little about the contract and subcontract.
Some information has leaked out in Belgium, where one broadcast journalist called CMI’s work for the Canadian maker of armored vehicles the “contract of the century” for the firm, which is based in Seraing, Belgium. Local media say it would be worth €3.2-billion ($4.9-billion) and last more than 15 years. In 2015, CMI announced it had bought a military base in northeastern France to be transformed into a campus to train the Saudis on the LAV weaponry.
The full number of combat vehicles Canada will sell to the Saudis has never been released - some arms trade experts estimate it could be in the thousands - but a French municipal official told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday the transaction CMI is involved with concerns about 700.
CMI, which manufactures turrets and cannons, announced in 2014 that it had signed a large contract with a “Canadian vehicle manufacturer” to supply two gun systems, including a medium-caliber weapon and the Cockerill CT-CV 105HP, which it advertises as a “high-pressure gun with an advanced autoloader to deliver high lethality at very light weight,” one with the capacity to fire 105-mm shells and a heavy-armor-penetrating missile. CMI did not name the Canadian company.
In France, where CMI’s campus is located, Jean-Philippe Vautrin, President of the Communauté de Communes du pays de Commerce, said in an interview that CMI will start training the Saudis on the turrets and cannons in 2017, using simulators on the campus site but also a nearby artillery range.
He said the Saudis will learn how to operate the wheeled portion of the LAVs on Canadian soil.