September 6th’s Official State Gazette (OSG, or BOE in Spanish) features the agreement between Spain and Saudi Arabia regarding the mutual protection of classified information in the field of defense, signed in September 2016 and which came into force last August. This pact replaces a memorandum approved in 2011 on the same subject. The agreement, valid for 5 years, will be extended on an annual basis if neither country objects.

The document expressly refers to procurement and outsourcing between countries. In March, Amnesty International condemned Spain for selling weapons to Saudi Arabia which, according to the organisation, were used in the war against Yemen, throughout which many violations of international law have been recorded in attacks against civilians. Spain sold at least €116m in weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2016, as detailed in the Ministry of Defense' exports report.

Such confidentiality agreements between countries are common. Indeed, both countries signed a general agreement on cooperation in 2007. These agreements are not quite so common, however those referring specifically to the field of defense are (although general pacts may already include it). Besides this one, we could only find one other example of a similar agreement from recent years in the Official State Gazettes - with Singapore in 2014.

In recent years, Spain and Saudi Arabia had already signed agreements on security and the fight against crime (2014), for the promotion and reciprocal protection of investments (2006), for the transfer of prisoners (2008), on taxes and tax evasion (2007) and a cultural agreement (1984).

Spain's ties with Saudi Arabia, via the Official State Gazette, go deeper. Together with the contract for the AVE (high speed train) to Mecca - in the form of accounts auditing- we have uncovered numerous gestures of friendship and protocol towards the Arab country. In 2005, the government declared an official mourning period upon the death of King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz. This is an unusual gesture, only decreed upon the death of a leader from a country with close ties to Spain. The Government approves it, at the Council of Ministers, via Royal Decree. In this case, according to the document itself, it was declared “in light of the deep historical ties of friendship and solidarity between the Royal Households, the governments and the peoples of the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Spain”.

Since the death of Francisco Franco, official mourning periods have been decreed following terrorist attacks and major accidents, the deaths of soldiers during foreign missions, or the death of members of the Royal Family or their close relatives. When it comes to foreign leaders, official mourning periods were declared upon the death of the President of Poland (2010), the King of Belgium (2005), and three Popes (Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II), besides the King of Saudi Arabia (2005). Franco previously decreed mourning, in its case lasting three days, for King Faisal of Saudi Arabia (1975).

Meanwhile, Kings and Princes of the Arab country have been awarded Spanish medals of honour (here, here, here, here, here and here). In 1982, the State accepted a donation of US$200,000 from the Saudi government for the restauration of the Castle of Gormaz, in Soria.