Greens call on EU to stop arms exports to Saudia Arabia

Written by Martin Banks on 1 December 2017 in News

Parliament’s Greens/EFA group has called on the EU to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia to help prevent a humanitarian crisis in Yemen from worsening.

Gun | Photo credit: Jim Wrigley

The group said that despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is committing “grave breaches” of humanitarian law in Yemen, EU member states continue to export arms to the country.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Molly Scott Cato said that the UK alone benefitted from arms sales to Saudi Arabia to the tune of €1.1bn in the first half of this year.

She said, “An appalling catastrophe is unfolding in Yemen and the truth is that some member states, including the UK, are making an awful lot of money out of arms sales to the Saudis.”

The Greens have written to EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini asking her to put forward a proposal for an arms embargo in the Council.

The demand comes on the day UK Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in the Middle East for a three-day trip which will see her visit Saudi Arabia to demand the country immediately end its  blocade of Yemen which humanitarian groups say is causing a huge and preventable crisis of famine and disease.

On Wednesday she travelled to Riyadh, where she challenged Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the deteriorating situation in Yemen as well as the country’s halting social reforms and its dispute with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia has been embroiled in a brutal three-year proxy conflict in Yemen, where forces it backs have been accused of rampant rights abuses against civilians as they battle Houthi rebels. An already critical humanitarian situation has worsened with a blockade which has halted vital aid supplies.

Scott Cato told reporters that member states “must place arms embargoes against all countries that fail to uphold international humanitarian law.”

She said, “Mrs May is in Saudi Arabia today and will do a lot of posturing about what the regime should be doing regarding Yemen. But, at the end of the day, the UK will, like other member states, continue to sell arms to Saudi.

“We need to remind ourselves that the catastrophe in Yemen is the result of the Saudi-led coalition’s military actions.”

Speaking on the same panel, Greens co-Chair Ska Keller said that the latest Unicef reports said some 11 million children in Yemen were caught up in the civil war and 130 children were dying every single day.

“This is a totally unacceptable situation but it is not getting the attention it merits,” she said.

Keller said the Greens also an end to the naval blockade of Yemen’s ports which, she said, was blocking the importation of food and medicines.

Another Greens MEP, Swedish member Bodil Valero, who is rapporteur on arms exports,  said, "The EU needs to take responsibility for the dreadful consequences of some of EU members states' arms exports.

“European weapons are contributing to human rights abuses and forced migration, which are completely at odds with the EU's common values. They also feed terrorism, one of the very issues that all member states claim to be fighting hard against.

"Where countries fail to uphold international humanitarian law, there should be no question of EU countries continuing to provide them with arms. Embargoes are desperately needed.

“We also want action against the EU countries that continue to flout common rules. There needs to be a sanctions mechanism so that countries that fail to uphold the EU’s rules face real consequences."

Her report makes particular reference to the problem of EU arms exports to Saudi Arabia, which it is said are contributing to human rights abuses in Yemen.

Valero added, “Saudi Arabia is committing grave breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen. Member states cannot continue to hide from their complicity in this problem.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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