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The New Arab

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia doubled since Yemen war

Campaigners have urged London to re-think its relationship with the Saudi kingdom [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 November, 2019

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Government data showed that London licensed £5.3mn worth of arms sales to Riyadh from March 2015 until March 2019, amounting to almost a 50 percent increase since Yemen war.
The UK government has since 2015 doubled the value of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has been involved in a five-year bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen.

Government data showed that London licensed £5.3 million worth of arms sales to Riyadh from March 2015 until March 2019, amounting to almost a 50 percent increase on the value of arms licenses, which stood at £3.8 million prior to the Yemen conflict. 

In reality, the figures are likely to be a great deal higher, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which said on Monday that most sales of missiles are licensed via "opaque and secretive" Open Licence system.

"The bombing has created a terrible humanitarian crisis in Yemen, but the arms companies have treated it as a business opportunity," Andrew Smith, spokesman at CAAT said.

"This war would not be possible without the complicity and support of arms dealing governments like the UK and US, who have pulled out all stops to maximise arms sales irrespective of the human cost," Smith said.

The UK-based campaigning organisation urged London to re-think its relationship with the Saudi kingdom, which has been accused by numerous international rights organisations of human rights violations.

"Regardless of who wins the election next month, there must be a fundamental re-evaluation of the UK's relationship with the brutal Saudi regime," Smith said.

"It is long past time for Westminster to end the arms sales and stop its uncritical support for the dictatorship."

A UK court ruled in June that it was illegal for the government to license weapons exports to Saudi Arabia without first assessing whether there was an "historic pattern of breaches of international humanitarian law" by the Saudi-led coalition that has fought Yemen's Houthi rebels since 2015.

Thousands of civilians have been killed by coalition bombing, and the conflict has left millions at risk of starvation.

While most EU countries have maintained arms sales to the Saudi Arabia, Germany has halted them over the brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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