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Labour promises to halt UK arms sales to Israel and Saudi Arabia in election manifesto Open in fullscreen

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Labour promises to halt UK arms sales to Israel and Saudi Arabia in election manifesto

Issues plaguing the Middle East dominated the manifesto’s foreign policy section. [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 November, 2019

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Labour vowed to 'conduct a root-and-branch reform of our arms exports regime so ministers can never again turn a blind eye to British-made weapons being used to target innocent civilians'.
The UK's Labour Party pledged to halt arms sales to Israel and Saudi Arabia, as part of its ambitious manifesto released on Thursday morning.

Labour vowed to "conduct a root-and-branch reform of our arms exports regime so ministers can never again turn a blind eye to British-made weapons being used to target innocent civilians".

Human rights abuses in the Middle East took up a large part of the manifesto's foreign policy section, which Labour believes if fixed could bring stability to the region.

The party promised to "reform the international rules-based order to secure justice and accountability for breaches of human rights and international law, such as the bombing of hospitals in Syria, the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, the use of rape as a weapon of war against the Rohingya community in Myanmar and the indiscriminate bombardment of civilians in Yemen".

This policy announcement comes hours after Syrian regime and Iranian forces launched a strike on a hospital and refugee camp in northern Syria, killing at least 21 civilians, 10 of which were children, a monitoring group said.

Internally displaced refugees in Idlib were reported to be among those killed, while some of the injured were taken to Turkish hospitals across the border in Hatay.

It is unclear how Labour's executive plans would halt Bashar al-Assad's ongoing strikes in Syria, which are believed to have contributed to the deaths of 500,000 people since war broke out in 2011.

"We will work through the UN and the Commonwealth to insist on the protection of human rights for Sri Lanka's minority Tamil and Muslim populations," the document read.

Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has been criticised in the past for his approach to UK foreign policy in the Middle East.

Besides a photo of him meeting the Syrian dictator resurfacing, many have criticized Corbyn’s silence on the war in Syria - considered to be one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in modern times.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has also courted controversy regarding her stance on Syria.

In May 2018, Thornberry said in Parliament that the support for Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, had been "underestimated" by the West, something that caused outrage among Syrians who have suffered under his brutal rule.

The then-Foreign Secretary - now prime minister - Boris Johnson in December 2017, accused her of tacitly supporting Assad as "president" via the comment.

"She was not advancing any proposals of her own, nor endorsing Iran's demands, and to suggest otherwise is a willful misrepresentation of the parliamentary record," said a spokesperson for Emily Thornberry.

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