Sunday 7 February 2021 - 00:48

UK PM Under Pressure to End Support for Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen

Story Code : 914798
UK PM Under Pressure to End Support for Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen
New US President Joe Biden on Thursday said the conflict had created a "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe" in his first foreign policy speech in office, The Independent reported.

Adding that the war "has to end", he announced an end to "relevant" US arms sales to Saudi Arabian forces.

In common with Biden's predecessor Donald Trump, the UK has been steadfast in its support of Saudi Arabia, which has been bombarding Yemen for six years.

The UK is providing technical support for the attack, has deployed troops to defend Saudi oil fields, and went as far to reinstate arms sales after a court ordered a pause on humanitarian grounds.

In a statement on Friday Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said "the government's support for Saudi campaign in Yemen is not only morally wrong but increasingly leaves Britain isolated on the world stage".

“President Biden’s decision to end US support for operations in Yemen shows just how far global opinion has shifted and leaves the UK worryingly out of step with our allies," she added.

“Ministers must now take long overdue action to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia and end the UK’s role in a conflict which has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” she added.

David Miliband, a former foreign secretary and chief executive of International Rescue Committee, told the BBC that there was "an important role for Britain to play, frankly" in ending the war.

"It hasn't yet come out in support of the Biden position of abandoning the Saudi-led coalition's war strategy which of course Britain is in part party to," he said.

Miliband called on the US and UK to reconsider the designation of the Houthi movement as an international terrorist organisation, and called for a "massive infusion of aid" and a ceasefire with "political and diplomatic action".

Since the bombing began in March 2015, Britain has licensed at least £5.4 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, mostly bombs and aircraft.

In June 2019 the Court of Appeal told the government to pause arms sales because of the possibility that they were being used to commit war crimes.

But in July last year International Trade Secretary Liz Truss ordered the resumptions of sales. Truss said that while some “credible incidents of concern” related to Saudi forces’ conduct had been classified as “possible” breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL), the UK government viewed these as “isolated incidents”.

Sarah Waldron of Campaign Against Arms Trade said, "The US Government is the biggest arms dealer in the world, so this could be an important step towards ending this terrible war. It also puts the spotlight firmly on to the UK government and companies that have armed, supported and enabled the brutal bombardment.

"Saudi-led forces have killed thousands of civilians and bombed schools, hospitals and homes. No matter how dire the crisis has become, they have been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the UK government. That support must end, and so must have the arms sales that have done so much damage," she said.

Philippe Nassif, Amnesty International UK's advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that "all arms sales to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia should be blocked to prevent further war crimes being committed in Yemen".

A UK government spokesperson said, “The UK is deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen and will continue to work with the US and other allies to find a peaceful resolution.  

“We are actively supporting the UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, to reach a political solution and have pledged almost £1 billion of UK aid to the humanitarian response since the conflict began," the spokesperson added.

“Decisions on arms sales are a matter for the US Government. The UK takes its arms export responsibilities seriously and we will continue to assess all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria," the spokesperson said.