UK To Continue Arming Saudis, Despite US Ban On Sales To The Region

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David Simmons Contributor
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The UK will continue selling weaponry to Saudi Arabia in spite of Obama’s decision to cease sales to the region, says Prime Minister Theresa May.

May shut down the opposition’s criticism of the decision, batting away reminders of Saudi Arabia’s questionable human rights record, Wednesday during Parliament’s Question Time.

May asserted that her decision was based on the “very strict” policy the UK has regarding sales of military equipment to foreign, belligerent nations.

“As the right honorable gentlemen knows we do have a very strict regime of export licenses in relation to weapons here in the United Kingdom,” said May. “We exercise that right very carefully and in recent years we have indeed refused export licenses in relations to arms including to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.”

The US government recently announced they were cancelling weapons sales to Saudi Arabia over concerns of widespread civilian casualties and abuses of human rights in the kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen. The United Nations has condemned Saudi Arabia a number of times for attacking civilians; specifically, their targeting of funerals, schools, and hospitals.

The US has instead decided to focus more on the training of Saudi fighter pilots and border protection in the region.

Prime Minister May faced criticism in Parliament from Scottish National Party’s Westminster group Leader Angus Robertson, who cited the US’ concerns for Saudi Arabia’s breaches of human rights.

“The US government has just said, and I quote, that ‘systematic, endemic problems in Saudi Arabia’s targeting’ drove the US decision to halt a future weapons sale involving precision-guided munitions,” said Robertson.

“The Saudis have UK-supplied precision guided Paveway IV missiles – they’re made in Scottland.”

“What will it take for the UK to adopt an ethical foreign policy when it comes to Yemen.”

As reported by The Independent, since the UK’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s conflict with Yemen began in 2015, the UK has licensed around £3 billion worth of arms including £2.2 billion of  ML10 licence – aircraft and drones, £1.1 billion ML4 licences, which include bombs and missiles, and £430,000 ML6 licences, which includes armoured vehicles and tanks.

“We do have a relationship with Saudi Arabia – the security of the Gulf is important to us,” said May.

“I would remind the RHG that the intelligence and counter-terrorism links we have with Saudi Arabia has saved potentially hundreds of lives here in the UK.”

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David Simmons