Stockholm (AFP) - Worldwide arms trade has risen to its highest level since the Cold War in the last five years, driven by a demand from the Middle East and Asia, a study said Monday.
Between 2012-2016, arms imports in terms of volume by countries in Asia and Oceania accounted for 43 percent of global imports, a 7.7 rise compared to the previous 2007-2011 period, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
"Transfer of major weapons in 2012-16 reached their highest volume for any five-year period since the end of" the Cold War, the independent institute said in a statement.
The share of Asia and Oceania in international imports was slightly higher (44 percent) between 2007 and 2011.
The share of countries in the Middle East and the Gulf monarchies jumped from 17 percent to 29 percent, far ahead of Europe (11 percent, down seven points), the Americas (8.6 percent, down 2.4 percentage points) and Africa (8.1 percent, down 1.3 points).
"Over the past five years, most states in the Middle East have turned primarily to the USA and Europe in their accelerated pursuit of advanced military capabilities", said Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
"Despite low oil prices, countries in the region continued to order more weapons in 2016, perceiving them as crucial tools for dealing with conflicts and regional tensions," he added.
Sipri said worldwide arms imports and exports over the last five years have reached a record level since 1950.
Saudi Arabia was the second largest importer of weapons in the world (up 212 percent), behind India, which unlike China, does not have a production at national level yet.
The United States remains the top weapons exporter with a 33 percent market share (up 3 point), ahead of Russia (23 percent, down 1 point), China (6.2 percent, up 2.4 points) and France (6.0 percent, down 0.9 points) passing Germany (5.6 percent, down 3.8 points).
These five countries account for almost 75 percent of global exports of heavy weapons.
France's boost in the export ranking is a result of important contracts signed with Egypt, which acquired Mistral-style warships and Rafale combat aircraft.
Aude Fleurant, head of the armaments program at Sipri, told AFP that "competition is fierce among European producers" with France, Germany and Britain in the lead.
The United States and France are the main weapons providers for the Middle East while Russia and China are the main exporters to Asia.