Current arms embargoes and other restrictions

Details of arms embargoes, trade control restrictions, defence export policies and restrictions on terrorist organisations.


Sanctions are restrictions on exports implemented for political reasons by countries and international organisations to maintain international peace and security.

Sanctions measures include arms embargoes and other trade control restrictions.

It is a criminal offence to export licensable goods without a licence.

To keep informed of latest updates about arms embargoes and changes to strategic export control legislation, please subscibe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters.

Arms embargoes and trade control restrictions

An arms embargo is a prohibition or sanction against the export of weaponry and dual-use items - goods which have both a civil and military use. An arms embargo might be imposed via various routes such as by the UN, EU or OSCE and where the UK has imposed regulations as a result.

Trade Controls (or trafficking and brokering of military goods) concern the UK involvement in deals involving the movement of military goods from one overseas country to another. For further information see transport controls and trafficking and brokering (trade controls)

The list below details specific countries where sanctions have been imposed and where there are stricter trade controls in place.

Embargoed Destinations listed in the Export Control Order 2008 (Schedule 4 Parts 1 and 2)

The following guides contain details about the EU or Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) embargoes and stricter trade controls in the named countries:

UN embargoed destinations and listed in the Export Control Order 2008 (Schedule 4 Part 3)

The following guides contain details about the UN embargoes and transit controls for military goods in the named countries:

Partial EU embargoed destinations and listed in the Export Control Order 2008 (Schedule 4 Part 3)

China is subject to a partial EU embargo and also to transit controls for military goods: see the guide on the arms embargo on China.

Other countries listed in the Export Control Order 2008 (Schedule 4 Part 3)

These countries are subject to transit controls for military goods:

  • Afghanistan
  • Argentina
  • Burundi
  • Macao Special Administrative Region
  • Rwanda
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda

Countries subject to transit control for Category B Goods (Schedule 4 Part 4)

The Export Control Order 2008 includes a wider list of countries which are subject to transit controls for Category B goods. Category B of the trade controls comprises small arms and light weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), long-range missiles and man portable air-defence systems.

Countries subject to military end-use controls

Some goods which are not on the UK Military List may need an export licence under the military end-use control.

The countries listed below are subject to military end-use controls:

  • Armenia and Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ivory Coast
  • Lebanon
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Republic of Guinea
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Zimbabwe

Further details in Export Control Order 2008.

Lifted embargoes

The UK has lifted its arms embargo on Rwanda following the issuing of the United Nations Arms Embargoes (Rwanda) (Amendment) Order 2008 (SI 2008 No 3128). This order came into force on 12 December 2008 and adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1823 (2008) which lifts the arms embargo previously imposed by UNSCR 918 (1994).

However, there is still an embargo in force in respect of military goods going to Rwanda where there is a clear risk of diversion to the Democratic Republic of Congo. See arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of Congo

Rwanda is also still subject to Transit Controls for Military Goods as specified under Schedule 4 Part 3 of the Export Control Order 2008 (see above).

The UK has also lifted its arms embargo on Uzbekistan following the issuing of Export Control (Uzbekistan) Order 2010 (SI 2010/615). This order came into force on 29 March 2010. The order revokes the UK’s previous implementing legislation, the Export Control (Uzbekistan( Order 2005. This amendment results from the Council of the European Union’s decision to lift restrictive measures via Council Regulation (EU) No 1227/2009 of 15 December 2009.

Other restrictions

There is a wider list of countries that are subject to other types of restrictions. In particular, ECO is concerned with the restrictions described below.

Argentina (exports to Argentina, ECOWAS countries, India and Pakistan)

On 27 June 2018, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs announced a revised policy on exports to, and trade (trafficking and brokering) in, controlled goods and technology for the Argentina military, revising the previous 2012 policy. Find out more in the written ministerial statement.

Our general position is that we will continue to refuse licences for export and trade of goods judged to enhance Argentine military capability.

However, where like-for-like equipment is no longer available, we may grant licences where we judge they are not detrimental to the UK’s defence and security interests.

Licence applications for equipment and defence technology which meet the above criteria will still be assessed on a case by case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria.

Argentina is subject to transit control for military goods.

Licence applications must be made to the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU).

Restrictions for the maintenance of regional peace and stability

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted a Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their ammunition and other related materials and a moratorium on Import, Export and Manufacture of Light Weapons in June 2006. ECOWAS - a regional group founded in 1975 to promote economic integration - consists of 15 states:

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cape Verde
  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Togo

Implications for exporters

The UK will not issue an export licence for small arms and light weapons, components or ammunition unless the ECOWAS Commission has issued an exception to its moratorium.

You can find out about the current ECOWAS restrictions in arms embargo on West African States.

Restrictions on non-conventional and dual-use items

As of 10 November 2008 the UK reviewed its policy towards nuclear-related exports to India. Restrictions on nuclear exports to Pakistan remain in force.

Implications for exporters

Exporters can apply for an export control licence for their goods. All applications will be considered by the UK government in line with the provisions of the Consolidated Criteria for UK and EU Arms Exports.

Find out the details of restrictions on exports of non-conventional and dual-use items to India and Pakistan in export embargo on nuclear goods to India or Pakistan.

Countries whose sustainable development might be damaged by arms exports

There is a list of countries eligible for loans from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). The IDA’s remit is to help the world’s poorest countries by providing interest-free credits and grants for development programmes.

You can find the list of borrowing countries on the World Bank IDA website

This list includes countries where:

  • there are already specific sanctions and embargoes in place
  • arms exports might seriously hamper its economic or sustainable development

There are various non-arms-related restrictions relating to UK exports in force - such as visa and financial sanctions. The FCO is responsible for overall UK policy on international sanctions.

Financial sanctions

The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation is responsible for the implementation and administration of international financial sanctions in the UK.

See also the guide from UK Trade and Investment on doing business in Russia and Ukraine.

Counter financing of terrorism

The following counter financing of terrorism designations currently apply:

EU sanctions

The European Commission website has an up-to-date list of EU Sanctions in force. This list includes details of financial and other restrictions, as well as arms embargoes and sanctions. You can find an overview of EU sanctions on the Europa website

Other defence export policies and restrictions applying to all countries

The UK government is a party to internationally agreed criteria governing the export of arms and military equipment. These criteria aim to regulate a responsible approach to arms transfers, strengthen the exchange of relevant information and increase transparency in the arms trade.

UN register of conventional arms

The Register of Conventional Arms was set up by the UN General Assembly. The register includes data from participating UN member states on international arms transfers and information on military holdings and procurement.

You can read about the Register of Conventional Arms on the UN website

The Forum for Security Cooperation of the OSCE

The principles of OSCE - the world’s largest regional security organisation - regulate arms transfers between the 56 participating states.

You can download the principles governing conventional arms transfers from the OSCE website

EU code of conduct on arms exports

The EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports (PDF, 64K) is a set of standards drawn up by the Council of the EU for the transfer of conventional arms by all EU member states.

Consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria

All licence applications to export arms and other controlled goods are considered against these criteria, on a case-by-case basis. See overview of export control legislation.

The UK also prohibits the export of specific goods to any country, including:

  • portable devices - components for devices designed or modified, for riot control purposes or self protection, to administer an electric shock
  • anti-personnel landmines and their component parts
  • blinding laser weapons
  • significant new nuclear supplies or materials to countries other than recognised nuclear weapons states, where there are unsafeguarded nuclear installations
  • Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADs) to non-state end users - see export licensing of Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADs)

Restrictions applying to terrorist organisations

The UN Security Council has imposed measures against terrorist organisations in relation to financial and visa sanctions, and arms embargos.

All UN member states are obliged to:

  • freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources, including funds derived from property owned or controlled directly or indirectly
  • prevent entry into, or the transit through, their territories
  • prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of arms and related material, including military and paramilitary equipment, technical advice, assistance or military training

You can read the UN list of individuals and entities belonging to, or associated with, Al Qaida and the Taliban against which there are sanctions on the UN website

In conjunction with these measures the EU has implemented restrictive measures on the Taliban and Al-Qaida network as specified by Council Regulation (EC) 881/2002 (as amended by Council Regulation (EU) 754/2011 (‘the Al-Qaida Regulation’) and Council Regulation (EU) 753/2011 (‘the Taliban Regulation’).

These regulations include prohibitions on the technical advice, assistance or training related to military activities to any person, body or entity listed in Annex I to the Al-Qaida Regulation. They also prohibit technical assistance related to goods and technology listed in the Common Military List of the European Union to any person, group, undertaking or entity listed in Annex I of the Taliban Regulation. The Common Military List is pubilshed in th UK as the UK Military List, which forms part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists.

Both of these EU Council Regulations came into force on 2 August 2011 and are directly applicable in all EU member states (including the UK).

You can find the latest updates to EU legislation on the European Commission website.

The UK has subsequently introduced a new legislative order - the Export Control (Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions) Regulations 2011 - which came into force on 30 November 2011.

This regulation creates new offences and penalties in respect of the EU restrictive measures directed at certain persons, groups and entities associated with the Al-Qaida network and with the Taliban in view of the situation in Afghanistan.

You can access copies of any UK legislation on the website.

Export licensing application statistics

The UK government is committed to ensuring that the ECJU is accountable and information on export control is easily accessible.

The government committees on Arms Export Controls examine the ECJU’s expenditure, administration and policy on strategic exports. You can read about the committees’ work and the reports they produce on the UK parliament website.

The ECJU publishes various reports and statistics in relation to applications for export licences and the progress of the organisation, including:

  • Quarterly and annual reports - containing details by destination both of physical exports and of what equipment has been licensed for export
  • Annual Licensing Performance Statistics - providing a summary of the ECO’s progress

Further information

Subscribe to receive the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters’ updates

See EU sanctions against Russia - further information.

Register of Conventional Arms on the UN website

Download EU arms exports code of conduct from the Council of the EU website

Al Qaida and Taliban associated individuals and entities against which there are sanctions listed on the UN website

UK legislation search on the website

Published 3 August 2012
Last updated 1 August 2019 + show all updates
  1. Removed Eritrea from lists as sanctions have been lifted.
  2. Updated information about the arms embargo on Argentina.
  3. Added Venezuela to embargoed destinations list.
  4. Removed references to sanctions on Liberia and Ivory Coast as these have been repealed.
  5. Updated with link to the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation
  6. Added link to latest information about sanctions against Russia.
  7. Contains further information on the suspension of strategic export control licences to Egypt.
  8. Added information on financial sanctions.
  9. First published.