Contrary to assurances by Sweden’s Civil Aviation Administration (LFV) of the strictly civilian nature of its cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, several Swedish professionals working in the UAE revealed that the LFV staff has been handling military flights on a daily basis, involving both fighter jets and transport aircraft, headed for Yemen, among other places, Swedish Radio reported.
The LFV’s wholly-owned subsidiary has since 2013 collaborated on the airline management of five airports in the United Arab Emirates, a country involved in the Yemeni war as part of the Saudi-led coalition.
Air traffic controller Jan Källström, who worked at Abu Dhabi International Airport between 2015 and 2017, admitted seeing military equipment being loaded on board a military freight plane at the airport.
“I could see them loading in a helicopter or a tank, so that’s definitely weapons,” Källström told Swedish Radio.
According to Källström, there was a designated fenced-off military area at the airport where he worked where major military freight aircraft were stationed. Källström admitted to rendering assistance to UAE military freight aircraft on a daily basis, with some of the flights bound for Yemen.
“It happened every now and then, maybe we had up to 30-40 flights a day. As for Yemen, I have more difficulty saying, two to three airplanes a day were heading there,” Källström said, admitting to having moral dilemmas and comparing himself with a “spider in the network.”
The Civil Aviation Administration retorted that handling military flights at civil airports was part of the civil aviation’s duties. Maria Wall Petrini, the CEO of the LFV subsidiary in the UAE, said it would have been problematic of Sweden contributed in any way to the conflict in Yemen, but insisted that the formal mission was strictly to guide civil aviation.
Previously, doubts were cast over the ethicality of Sweden’s military exports to the Gulf states engaged in the Yemeni conflict.
Among others, Yemeni-Swedish journalist Afrah Nasser pointed out that Sweden played a role in the Yemeni war through continuing military exports to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, despite documented human rights violations by the Saudi-led coalition.
In an opinion piece published by the magazine OmVärlden, she claimed the lack of political willpower to stop the arms trade with “the most active warring parties” in Yemen was inconsistent with Sweden’s “leading part” in efforts to solve the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn mid-Eastern country, citing the example of Finland and Norway, which both suspended their military cooperation with the coalition.
Sweden is among the world’s 30 biggest arms manufacturers, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among its biggest customers. Between 2010 and 2016, Sweden sold arms to the tune of SEK 6 billion ($730 million) and SEK 2 billion ($240 million) to Saudi Arabia and the UAE respectively. Furthermore, the UAE is headed for a record SEK 11 billion ($1.35 billion) arms deal with Sweden, OmVärlden reported.