'Stop blocking Yemen aid,' UK minister tells Saudi Arabia

'Stop blocking Yemen aid,' UK minister tells Saudi Arabia
Britain's International Development Secretary has said that breaches of humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen could throw bilateral ties 'into difficulty.'
2 min read
18 December, 2017
Saudi Arabia tightened its blockade on Yemen last month [AFP]

A British minister has warned Saudi Arabia that "using starvation as a weapon" would constitute a breach of humanitarian law, as concerns continue over Riyadh's blockade of Yemen.

Speaking while on a visit to Djibouti, UK International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said that Saudi Arabia has "no excuse" to continue the blockade.

"It is very clear that if you are using starvation as a weapon you are in breach of international humanitarian law," Mordaunt said during a trip that included visits to Saudi Arabia and Djibouti. "And what I have seen on my visit is that what is being held up is aid."

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a military coalition fighting against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, in an effort to restore the authority of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

With fighting between the two sides having been locked in a stalemate, the Saudi-led coalition has imposed crippling restrictions on imports into Yemen.

Following a recent Houthi rocket attack last month on Saudi Arabia, the blockade was tightened.

Britain is set to provide £50 million ($66.8m) in aid to assist the millions of Yemens facing starvation due to the country's ongoing conflict.

"UK aid will save lives with new food and fuel - fuel that will produce food, pump clean water to help stop the spread of cholera, and power hospital generators," Mordaunt said.

Moradaunt echoed warnings from the UN and humanitarian agencies, saying that aid restrictions could push Yemen into a "catastrophic famine."

"I very much understand the importance of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. But we do not help that relationship by not speaking about the facts of the matter," she said, adding that breaches of international laws would but the relationship between London and Riyadh "into dificulty."

Despite British leaders calling for an end to Yemen's war, rights groups have long criticised the UK's continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia throughout the Yemen conflict.
UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia has brought profits of more than $8bn to weapons manufacturers, but only $40m in corporation tax to the government, a War Child report has found.

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia has produced profits of more than $8bn to weapons manufacturers, according to a report from UK-based charity War Child.