The release of a CIA report blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for ordering the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has led to fresh calls for Britain to stop arming Saudi Arabia.
Britain is the second-largest arms seller to Saudi Arabia after the United States, and has licensed the sale of £4.7bn ($6.5bn) of weapons to the Gulf kingdom since the start of the Yemen war in March 2015.
Oxfam, which recently accused the UK of fuelling the war in Yemen via its arms sales to Riyadh, urged Britain to follow the US in halting weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.
“At a time that the US seems to be evaluating its relationship with Saudi Arabia, we would urge the UK government to do the same and stop its arms sales to Saudi Arabia which are fuelling the conflict in Yemen,” Mushin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen director told Middle East Eye.
“Over 12,000 civilian lives have been lost since the start of the war, with atrocities on all sides. We need an immediate ceasefire to ensure no more innocent Yemenis are killed and that humanitarian agencies have safe access to deliver the support they need.”
The United Nations released a report in December saying that an estimated 233,000 people had died in the course of the war in Yemen, including 131,000 from indirect causes.
Siddiquey’s calls were reiterated by Tobias Ellwood, chair of the UK defence select committee, who said Britain should follow Washington’s decision after the publication of the CIA report.
“The CIA report is unambiguous in its conclusions, and this will be inevitably be an embarrassment and shame to the wider country,” Ellwood told The Guardian.
He also called on Saudi Arabia’s royal family to respond “to the loss in international confidence and trust of the crown prince” and the “wider cultural atmosphere that allowed such decision making to go unchallenged”.
UK arms sales ‘prolong’ Yemen civil war
Last week, Oxfam accused Britain of “prolonging” Yemen’s civil war through the sale of millions of pounds worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Government documents released on Monday showed a large increase in export licenses of UK arms destined for the Saudis, which Oxfam suspects will be used in Yemen.
The approved licences include equipment for the maintenance of Saudi fighter jets and in-flight refuelling that will allow Saudi aircraft to fly for long periods.
The UK also issued open licences for bombs, missiles and rockets worth $1.9bn in 2020, and a further, unlimited amount until 2025.
The arms export licenses were authorised after a year-long suspension on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, ordered by UK courts, had been lifted.