Boris Johnson stands firm against pressure over Saudi Arabia arms sales

Posted On: 
5th September 2016

Boris Johnson has insisted the UK will go on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite increasing pressure from MPs over alleged human rights breaches in Yemen.

A United Nations panel has raised human rights concerns about more than 100 missions conducted by the Saudis over Yemen
PA Images

A United Nations panel has raised human rights concerns about more than 100 missions conducted by the Saudis as part of its ongoing military action in the Yemeni civil war.

MPs from across the political divide are urging a powerful select committee to call on the UK to ban its multi-billion pound arms dealings with Saudi Arabia.

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But Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson today stood firm, arguing the “key test” on international humanitarian rights for halting weapons sales had not been met.

“The key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to IHL [International Humanitarian Law] is whether there is a clear risk that those weapons might be used in a commission of a serious violation of IHL,” he said in a statement.

“Having regard to all the information available to us, we assess that this test has not been met.”

Mr Johnson also reaffirmed that the Saudis were the best placed to police themselves over conduct on human rights - after the Government backed an investigation by Riyadh into the alleged crimes.

His comments come after the Government was forced to admit in July it had not assessed whether Riyadh had committed human rights violations in Yemen - contradicting earlier claims.

The International Development Committee has demanded Mr Johnson explain the embarrassing clarification, while MPs have called for a Commons statement on the issue.

The parliamentary committee on arms export controls meets this week to finalise a report expected to criticise the 10-month bombing campaign in Yemen.

According to The Guardian a cross-party coalition of MPs will urge the committee to demand an end to arms contracts with Riyadh.

Over the summer Saudi Arabia hit its fourth Yemeni hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières this year - killing 19 and injuring 24.

MSF claims to have shared co-ordinates of its hospitals with all factions of the conflict.

The UN has criticised Saudi Arabia for strikes on weddings, markets, schools and hospitals that did not appear to qualify as military targets.

Since the conflict started in March 2015, thousands of people have been killed in fighting between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni army, which remains loyal to President Hadi.

Prime Minister Theresa May held a bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of the G20 summit in China yesterday.