UK urged to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia following US Khashoggi report

UK urged to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia following US Khashoggi report
The UK is the second largest exporter of arms to Saudi Arabia.
3 min read
28 February, 2021
The UK sold nearly $2 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia last year [Getty]
The UK is once again being urged to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the publication this week of a US intelligence report that found Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Campaigners have previously called on the British government to ban arms exports to the kingdom over its leading role in the bloody Yemen war, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions.

London briefly banned the sale of arms that could be used in Yemen but nearly $2 billion in bombs, missiles and other military equipment were sold to Riyadh between July and September last year, after which the ban was lifted.

The UK is the second largest arms exporter to Saudi Arabia after the United States, which recently pledged to end the sale of arms to be used in Yemen.

The British government must follow suit with the Biden administration, Oxfam said this week.

"Over 12,000 civilian lives have been lost since the start of the war with atrocities on all sides," said the charity's Yemen country director, Muhsin Siddiquey.

"We need an immediate ceasefire to ensure no more innocent Yemenis are killed and that humanitarian agencies have safe access to deliver the support they need."

Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the UK defence select committee, has also urged the government to revaluate its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

"The CIA report is unambiguous in its conclusions and this will be inevitably be an embarrassment and shame to the wider country," Ellwood was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

The Open Society Justice Initiative, the US-based organisation that sought the release of the intelligence report via a lawsuit, has also called on the UK and other allies of Saudi Arabia to end arms sales to the kingdom.
Read more: How the odds were stacked against Yemen's revolution

It has also called on Riyadh's allies to impose sanctions on bin Salman, the kingdom's crown prince and de-facto ruler.

Although both the US and UK have imposed sanctions on Saudi nationals linked to the Khashoggi murder, neither have targerted bin Salman.

Yemen is undergoing what the United Nations has termed the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with around 24 million reliant on aid and some 10 million at the brink of famine.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the country's civil war in 2015, a few months after the Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa.

Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition are estimated to have killed 8,750 civilians, according to the Yemen Data Project.

Around a third of the those airstrikes have targeted hospitals, schools and other non-military sites, the Yemen Data Project claims.

The ongoing conflict has claimed more than 200,000 lives, according to the UN OCHA.

More than half of those deaths were due to "indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure", the UN humanitarian office said late last year.

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