Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Yemen - No Apologies

The UK government has said that its heart “goes out” to relatives of people killed when a Saudi-led air strike bombed a wedding which left 20 people dead including the bride, but that it still refuses to halt arms sales to the country.

Foreign minister Harriet Baldwin said she stood by the UK’s on-going arms trade with Saudi, worth £4.6bn since the start of the Yemen conflict, arguing that the Middle Eastern country has adequate systems to ensure operations comply with international law. She did not explicitly criticise Saudi Arabia or even say that she condemned the attack. Instead, she addressed her words at all sides of the conflict. She said the UK would be a “candid friend” to Saudi Arabia, encouraging the country’s leaders to the negotiating table – but also advising and training Saudi military personnel.

 Ministry of Defence’s own figures shows there have been 42 potential violations of international humanitarian law in just three months at the beginning of 2018. That was compared to 66 incidents throughout the whole of last year.  Of 17,000 Saudi-led coalition air strikes, one third have hit non-military targets.

 Many observers find troubling is not just a lack of willingness for humanitarian intervention on the part of EU countries, but a lack of willingness to even condemn the aggression. Because EU nations such as Britain and France have close ties to Saudi Arabia through the arms trade and other economic arrangements, many are often silent when civilians are killed by the kingdom's airstrikes, which have killed thousands of the up to 10,000 people who have died in Yemen's conflict. In April 2016, according to Reuters, more than 60 percent of the deaths in Yemen were caused by Saudi airstrikes. France and the UK also have close political alliances with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who leads the kingdom. According to Reuters, French defense contractors delivered €2 billion in equipment to Saudi Arabia in 2015. Statistics published by Britain's Department for International Trade in October showed that in the first half of 2017, arms sales from the UK to Saudi Arabia topped €1.25 billion.

Refugees are another reason why EU nations have been so interested in bringing Syria's civil war to an end while largely ignoring Yemen's. Up to 1 million of the more than 11 million displaced Syrians have sought refuge from the war in EU countries. The situation is different with Yemen. Instead of attempting to reach Europe as refugees via a nearly impossible land route that would force them to transit Saudi Arabia and possibly Syria, Iraq or both, displaced people there are fleeing to the remaining safe areas within the country. About 3 million people are internally displaced within Yemen, and unless they attempt to make the dangerous journey to Europe, the EU simply has less of a stake in the conflict than it does in Syria's civil war

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