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Britain to sell 48 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia despite humanitarian concerns

May met with Mohammed bin Salman in London this week [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 March, 2018

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News of the sale comes as Crown Prince and de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman visits the UK amid protests.

The UK is poised to sell 48 new Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia despite domestic opposition to the sale, The Mirror reported.

The UK and Saudi governments signed a “memorandum of intent” on Friday - a prelude to finalising the deal - as part of Crown Prince and de factor Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman’s trip to the UK.

The firm producing the jets, BAE Systems, employs 5,000 people in Britain.

For days, activists have been calling for Britain to suspend arms sales to the kingdom.

“If confirmed this shameful deal will be celebrated in the palaces of Riyadh and by the arms companies who will profit from it, but it will mean even greater destruction for the people of Yemen,” said Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

On Friday, Save the Children’s chief executive Kevin Watkins said Saudi Arabia was “orchestrating what will potentially become the worst famine in the last 50 years”.

“It has become acceptable to operate humanitarian blockades which, if not explicitly designed to starve children and harm children, will have that inevitable consequence,” he added.

Riyadh has been waging a war against Yemen since 2015. More than 10,000 have been killed and more than eight million are at risk of famine due to a Saudi blockade of Yemeni ports.

There are also up to one million suspected cholera cases in the country. The UN has called Yemen the “world’s worst humanitarian disaster”.

On Thursday night, the Saudi crown prince attended a private dinner with British Prime Minister Theresa May. He also met with the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge.

May defended the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen suggesting “their involvement … came at the request of the legitimate government of Yemen, it is backed by the United Nations Security Council and as such we support it,” she said.

But despite the comments, the arrival of MbS to the UK has been met with protests among the public. About 200 had lined up outside the gates of 10 Downing Street on Wednesday to greet the Saudi leader.

“The prince should be persecuted instead of being invited here and having the red carpet rolled out for him,” one protester told The New Arab.

Trade deals worth 65 billion GBP were agreed to during MbS’ visit to the UK.

Meanwhile opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused May’s government of “colluding” in war crimes by selling Saudi Arabia military equipment.

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