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The Guardian: UK Approves Arms Sales to Saudis after Airstrike on Yemen Funeral

2017-07-28 - 9:08 p

Bahrain Mirror- Exclusive: The Guardian stated that the British government approved £283m of arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the six months after a Saudi airstrike on a funeral that killed scores of people and was criticized by the UN.

In the following six months, the government authorized exports including £263m-worth of combat aircraft components to the Saudi air force, and £4m of bombs and missiles, according to data from Campaign Against Arms Trade.

The newspaper indicated that this is a steep decline from the £1bn of bombs and missiles sent to the country in a single quarter in summer 2015. But campaigners and say the sales remain a matter of concern.

"The terrible funeral bombing should have been a time for reflection and for the UK to reconsider its uncritical political and military support for Saudi Arabia," said Andrew Smith, spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade. "Instead, it has continued licensing fighter jets, bombs and other deadly weapons to the regime."

"If killing 140 people and turning a scene of mourning into a massacre isn't enough to stop the arms sales, then what more would it take? Yemen has fallen into a terrible humanitarian catastrophe. How many more people need to die before the UK finally does the right thing and stops arming the [Saudi] regime?"

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman, called for arms sales to Saudi Arabia to be suspended. "There is now widespread evidence that Saudi Arabia has indiscriminately targeted civilians in Yemen," she told the Guardian. "Yet the government has shamefully sold millions of pounds of UK arms to the Saudi regime as if nothing has happened.|

She went on to say that "Liam Fox needs to take responsibility and end Britain's complicity in this horrific conflict by suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia immediately."

It is to mention that the £283m figure does not include aircraft cannon equipment, targeting software, aircraft components, assault rifles and more that were exported under 24 open licences, in which the value of the equipment is not recorded.

Smith said open licences were "even less transparent" than the standard individual export licences, which apply to specific sets of restricted goods that are being exported.

This month, the high court ruled that the government had not breached its own weapons export laws by continuing to approve arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite mounting allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Yemen.

The airstrike, on 8 October 2016, hit a funeral hall in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, killing 140 people and injuring hundreds more, in one of the bloodiest attacks in the two-year Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

British arms exports to Saudi Arabia have faced intense scrutiny from MPs and campaigners since the start of the conflict, but the country remains the UK's most important weapons client.

Following the attack, the UK trade secretary, Liam Fox, delayed signing a set of export licences and his officials prepared for sales to Saudi Arabia to be suspended. However, documents obtained by the Guardian revealed that the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, advised him that the sales should continue, as he judged there was no clear risk that British weapons would be used for serious breaches of international humanitarian law.

Arabic Version



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