Middle East

UK To Resume Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia

Campaigners against the arms sales have condemned the decision as "morally bankrupt".

Britain is to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia after ministers ruled there was no pattern of deliberate breaches of international law involving UK-made weaponry in the conflict in Yemen.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said a fresh analysis of alleged violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) involving Saudi air strikes had concluded any potential breaches were "isolated incidents".

In a Commons written statement, she said the Saudis had a "genuine intent" to comply with IHL and that military exports could resume.

Ms Truss said analysis had been carried out on "all credible incidents of concern".

While some had been assessed as "possible" violations of IHL, Ms Truss said the research had not revealed any "patterns, trends or systemic weaknesses".

"I have assessed that there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL,” she said.

The decision was condemned as "morally bankrupt" by campaigners whose legal action forced the Government to halt arms sales to the Saudis in June 2019.

The then-international trade secretary Liam Fox announced the Government would not issue any new licences after the Court of Appeal ruled continuing sales would be unlawful.

Ministers ruled there was no pattern of deliberate breaches of international law involving UK-made weaponry in the conflict in Yemen (Picture: PA).

It followed claims that Saudi warplanes fighting in the coalition against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen had repeatedly targeted civilian gatherings including weddings, funerals and markets.

In its judgment, the court said the Government had failed to make any concluded assessment of whether the Saudis and their allies had committed a violation of IHL and had "made no attempt to do so".

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which brought the original case, condemned the decision as “rank hypocrisy” and said its lawyers would be looking at "all options" to challenge it.

Ms Truss said the Government would now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that had built up since last year.

Cover image: A library image of a Typhoon jet (Picture: MOD).