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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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UK Increasing Diplomatic Engagement To End Houthi Attacks On Red Sea

Rishi Sunak gave a statement to the Commons on the latest strikes against the Houthis (parliamentlive.tv)

3 min read

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that "diplomatic engagement" would be increased to aid UK and US efforts to end Houthi rebel attacks on ships in the Red Sea, following a second joint airstrike operation targeting Houthi operations.

On Monday, the US and UK carried out their second joint air strike operation on Houthi targets in retaliation, aiming to deter the Houthis from causing further disruption to international trade. Following their first joint operation, Sunak told the Commons last week that without UK and US intervention, international security would have been weakened. However, later in the week, US President Joe Biden admitted that the air strikes had so far not worked to deter the Houthis from continuing to operate in the Red Sea.

Addressing the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon, Sunak said a diplomatic strategy would be key to de-escalating conflict in the area, alongside military action. He insisted the action was necessary for the UK's "right to self-defence".

"We're increasing our diplomatic engagement, because we recognise the deep concerns about  the complexities of the current situation," he said.

The Prime Minister said he had spoken to US President Joe Biden on Monday night, and that Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron would be visiting the region in the coming days.

He explained that Cameron had told the Iranian government that they must "cease supplying the Hutus with weapons and intelligence and use their influence to stop Houthi attacks".

Sunak also said that working with allies to end the illegal flow of arms to the Houthi militia would be essential. He added that the UK government would continue to provide aid to the people of Yemen.

"We need to keep helping the people of Yemen who have suffered so terribly as a result of the country's civil war," he said.

"We will continue to deliver humanitarian aid and support a negotiated peace in that conflict. Not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because we need to show the people of Yemen that we have no quarrel with them, as the Yemeni government itself understands."

In response, Labour leader Keir Starmer said that while Labour would judge its support for airstrikes on a "case-by-case basis", he was clear that the opposition party supported the second airstrikes as "targeted action to reinforce maritime security in the Red Sea".

"The Houthi attacks are designed to destabilise us so we must stand united and strong," Starmer said.

"They bring danger to ordinary civilians working hard at sea. So we must protect them. And they aim to disrupt the flow of goods, food and medicines. So we must not let them go on unaddressed."

Starmer then asked Sunak to clarify the clear legal basis for the military action, and asked for assurance that the strikes would be effective in deterring further attacks.

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