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'Foreign ministry refused to abandon Saudi deal'

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08:06 CEST+02:00
The former head of the Swedish Fortifications Agency (Fortifikationsverket), Jane Cederqvist, wanted to stop the cooperation with the Saudi regime as early as 2000, but was told no by the Swedish foreign ministry, according to a new report in daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

“I thought it felt unpleasant to be active in a dictatorship. Saudi Arabia is a developing country when it comes to human rights," Cederqvist said to SvD.

On Wednesday the paper revealed that the Swedish agency has been cooperating with the Saudi dictatorship for over twenty years, a cooperation that has resulted in five gigantic subterranean fuel storage facilities in the country.

According to Cederqvist, the Saudis wanted to build the underground facilities because they feared attack, especially from Iraq.

The size of the facilities can be compared to a small city, according to Cederqvist.

“They're not just storage areas, there is also a hospital and a subterranean mosque,” she said to the paper.

As director general for the agency, Cederqvist had significant misgivings about the project and working together with the Saudi regime.

According to Cederqvist, she tried to bring the subject up with the then minister for finance, Social Democrat Bosse Ringholm, as well as with high ranking officials from the foreign ministry and the Swedish embassy in Riyadh.

She wanted the agency to pull out of the project. But the foreign ministry told her no.

“It was never going to work. The arguments they gave me were that the good contacts with the Saudi regime were too important to be risked,” she told SvD.

According to the paper, the project has been extended six times, by different Swedish governments, since it was first initiated in 1987.

And while the Saudis speak openly about the project, Sweden has always chosen to keep the cooperation confidential.

According to SvD, the project was extended by current prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's government as recently as 2007.

The great secrecy around the Saudi deals and the last few weeks' revelations have prompted Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt to demand that the government come clean.

"I want the government to openly account for any joint ventures they have had with Saudi Arabia. The question is if there are more dealings or cooperations. If that is the case I'd like the government to tell the Riksdag, before someone else does," he said to SvD.

The Local/rm

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