Where Unity Is Strength

[Image: 'share of arms sales by country' by crossswords is licensed under CC by SA 4.0]

[Image: ‘share of arms sales by country’ by crossswords is licensed under CC by SA 4.0]

Last Saturday’s Saudi-led coalition strikes responsible for the killing 140 at a funeral gathering in the Yemeni capital Sanaa have led to widespread criticism, which last week extended to the House of Lords.

Peers questioned the ethics of British and American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, with Lord Alton of Liverpool asking Her Majesty’s Government if since the devastating strikes they “are reassessing the licensing of United Kingdom weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since the conflict in Yemen began.”

Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Department for International Development, Baroness Anelay of St Johns responded thus, “The UK Government are deeply concerned by the conflict in Yemen, including recent events in Sanaa. As part of the careful risk assessment for the licensing of arms exports to Saudi Arabia, we keep the situation under careful and continued review.”

She added, “All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms and export licensing criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application.”

Lord Singh, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) said, “My Lords, bomb fragments found at the scene of the funeral carnage were those from an Mk 82 American guided bomb. Saudi Arabia is one of the most barbaric countries in the world, with beheadings, amputations and the enslavement of women, while, at the same time, exporting its medieval version of Islam to neighbouring countries such as Syria, Sudan and Yemen.”

He added, “Can the Minister give me a good reason why the West—principally the United States and ourselves—supplies some £7 billion-worth of arms to Saudi Arabia each year? I might add that boosting our trade by exporting the means of mass killings is not a good reason.”

In response Baroness Anelay reassured peers Britain complies with international humanitarian law and that she herself understood the sense of outrage felt by Lord Singh and others about the suffering of people in Yemen. She said, “I undertake that the UK will continue to press as strongly as we are able in the diplomatic sphere to achieve a peaceful resolution but, in the meantime, continue the aid that we provide there.”

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