UK keen to boost arms sales to Saudi, says government minister

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Following yesterday’s announcement that the UK will resume its controversial arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Britain’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace has said that the UK is keen to boost defence relations with the kingdom.

Wallace made the remarks in a phone call with Riyadh’s vice defence minister Prince Khalid Bin Salman – brother of Crown Prince Mohammed. The MP from Wyre and Preston North said that he appreciated the role played by the Saudis in combating threats to stability in the region, protecting sea lanes and securing freedom of navigation.

Yesterday Number 10 reversed a Court of Appeal suspension on arms sales to Riyadh, announcing the resumption of trading with Saudi, despite concerns from campaigners that its weapons could be deployed to commit war crimes against civilians in Yemen.

A government report found there had been no “pattern” of Saudi air strikes that breached international law. According to Liz Truss, international trade secretary, any violations committed by the Saudis were “isolated incidents”.

READ: UK ‘complicit’ in devastating ‘unlawful’ Saudi led blockade of Yemen

“The incidents which have been assessed to be possible violations of [the law] occurred at different times, in different circumstances and for different reasons,” she said in a written statement to MPs. “I have concluded that, notwithstanding the isolated incidents . . . Saudi Arabia has a genuine intent and the capacity to comply with [international law].”

Human rights campaigners, however, are likely to question the conclusions of the report and raise further scepticism over the impartiality of the Conservative government’s ability to carry out an investigation into Britain’s lucrative arms-trade with the Saudi monarchy.

Declassified UK concluded in a new damning report that Britain had been “complicit” in the devastating “unlawful” Saudi-led blockade of Yemen. Human rights campaign group CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) announced yesterday that it is considering taking legal action against Number 10 over its resumption of arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

Middle East Monitor

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