Sanaa Yemen Ruins After Airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition forces

Britain Increases Pressure On Saudi Arabia To End War In Yemen

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has criticised both the Saudi-led coalition and opposition Houthi rebels backed by Iran.

Sanaa Yemen Ruins After Airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition forces

Multiple airstrikes have been reported in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa over the past months (Picture: PA).

Britain will ramp up pressure on Saudi Arabia to end the war in Yemen by pushing for more action from UN Security Council members.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday criticised both the Saudi-led coalition and opposition Houthi rebels backed by Iran, saying: "For too long in the Yemen conflict both sides have believed a military solution is possible, with catastrophic consequences for the people."

The remarks are some of the government's strongest criticism yet of Britain's long-term ally and come in the face of increasing pressure - so far resisted - to halt British arms sales to Riyadh.

Last week, the Prime Minister Theresa May said a ceasefire in Yemen will only have an effect if it is "underpinned by a political deal".

Mr Hunt said the UK was talking to the other 14 Security Council member states about increasing action to help the population of the decimated Arab state, which has been torn apart by sectarian fighting since 2015.

Sa'dah, Yemen after a Saudi-coalition airstrike
The aftermath of a Saudi coalition airstrike in Yemen in August 2018 (Picture: PA).

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Now for the first time there appears to be a window in which both sides can be encouraged to come to the table, stop the killing and find a political solution that is the only long-term way out of disaster.

"The UK will use all its influence to push for such an approach. I met UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths on Tuesday, and there is a small but real chance that a cessation of hostilities could alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people."

Saudi Arabia is a long-term defence partner of Britain and earlier this year signed a memorandum of understanding with the British government to buy 48 jets in a deal worth billions of pounds.

But condemnation of the mounting humanitarian crisis in the Arabian Peninsula has been growing alongside concerns about alleged war crimes, including the deadly bombing of a school bus and a wedding party.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is greeted by Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in March 2018 (Picture: PA).
Theresa May met Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at Downing Street in March 2018 (Picture: PA).

The British government has faced intense pressure from the Labour opposition and humanitarian agencies to stop sales of other arms which could be used against civilian targets.

The Saudi regime is also facing international condemnation over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Turkey in October.

A Turkish prosecutor said last week that Mr Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as part of a premeditated killing.

The Foreign Secretary said at the time the murder was "incredibly shocking" but he also highlighted Saudi Arabia's importance for the UK arms industry and the risk of any unintended consequences a response may produce in the Middle East.