UK supplying fighter jets to Saudi Arabia despite arms ban
The British government negotiated an exemption from a German arms export ban to Saudi Arabia in order to continue selling planes to Riyadh for use in the Yemen war, despite documented human rights violations.
Germany in March extended a ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia by six months until the end of September, after a decision was made late last year to freeze the sale of military equipment to countries involved in the Yemen conflict.
While the ban initially encompassed weapons produced elsewhere with German parts, its March extension made an exception for arms that are manufactured with other countries - such as the Eurofighter and Tornado jets - when a ban triggered anger from EU partners France and the UK.
"There will be a partial exemption for joint European programmes and their connected licences until the end of December 2019," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote in an unpublished letter to the parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls (CEAC), The Guardian reported on Thursday.
"I am pleased the German government has listened to our request to ensure the spares for the existing Typhoon and Tornado aircraft in Saudi Arabia may now continue to be licensed," Hunt added.
Saudi-led coalition bombing has killed an estimated 17,729 civilians, according to the Yemen Data Project. But many say the death toll is much higher.
"By arming and supporting the Saudi dictatorship, Jeremy Hunt has made himself complicit in the terrible abuses that are being inflicted on Yemen," Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade told The New Arab.
"Tens of thousands of people have been killed by the bombardment, and the Government has continued to licence the fighter jets and bombs that are playing such a central role. Hunt and his colleagues have shown a total disregard for the rights and lives of Yemenis."
In another letter to the CAEC, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox had said he feared the German ban would have a "damaging impact" on UK-Saudi relations.
British Prime Minister Theresa May gave assurances to Saudi Arabia about British lobbying with the Germans to overturn the ban, Fox added, according to The Guardian.
Described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis by the United Nations, the war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi and UAE backed government has left millions on the brink of famine.