Campaigners accuse Michael Fallon of 'putting arms sales ahead of human rights'
Human rights campaigners have rounded on Michael Fallon after he said MPs’ criticism of Saudi Arabia was hampering Britain’s ability to sell them fighter jets.
The Defence Secretary was being quizzed on delays in selling the Eurofighter Typhoon jets to the Middle Eastern country – which is currently being negotiated by manufacturer BAE and UK ministers.
When pressed on the uncertainty of the defence manufacturing sector in the UK, Mr Fallon responded that while he had travelled to Jeddah in September to discuss it with his Saudi counterpart he had yet to sell the typhoon jets.
"I travelled to Saudi Arabia back in September and discussed progress on the deal with my opposite number, the Crown Prince, and pushed for a statement of intent, as we've had with Qatar," he told MPs at the Defence Committee.
He added: “I have to repeat, sadly, to this committee that obviously other criticism of Saudi Arabia in this parliament is not helpful and ... I’ll leave it there,”
“But we need to do everything possible to encourage Saudi Arabia towards batch two. I believe they will commit to batch two.”
The oil rich nation has faced global condemnation for its intensive bombing campaign of Yemen, and Mr Fallon’s comments sparked a barbed reaction from campaigners.
Spokesperson for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, Andrew Smith branded the Defene Secretary’s comments “disgraceful.”
“He is calling on other parliamentarians to join him in putting arms sales ahead of human rights, democracy and international humanitarian law,” he added.
Fallon should be doing all he can to stop the bloodshed and end UK complicity in the suffering, not urging his colleagues to willingly ignore the abuses in order to sell even more weapons.”
Director of the human rights organisation Reprieve, Maya Foa, said: “It is chilling that our defence secretary sees fit to warn MPs not to criticise one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. Mr Fallon must urgently explain himself to MPs and the public.”
Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said Mr Fallon’s comments as "extremely concerning", adding: "The sale of arms should never be prioritised over human rights, the rule of law, and the lives of innocent children in Yemen.”