Penny Mordaunt issues warning to Saudi Arabia over Yemen blockade
The International Development Secretary has issued a clear warning to the Saudi Arabian government over possible breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen.
Speaking on a visit to the Middle East, Penny Mordaunt said the Saudis could be breaking human rights laws by stopping key supplies entering Yemeni ports.
The Kingdom is at the head of a coalition of some ten countries fighting on the side of Yemen's government against Houthi rebels.
The minister, who replaced Priti Patel last month, had meetings with senior Saudi figures in Riyadh yesterday to urge them to ensure access to the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef.
And she warned that the UK-Saudi relationship would suffer if action is not taken to relieve the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
“It is very clear that if you are using starvation as a weapon you are in breach of international humanitarian law," she told the Daily Telegraph.
"And what I have seen on my visit is that what is being held up is aid."
“I very much understand the strategic importance of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. But we do not help that relationship by not speaking about the facts of the matter," she added.
“If there were to be a breach of international humanitarian law, that would put that relationship into difficulty.”
She warned that if supplies do not get through to Yemen, which is in he grip of a vicious civil war, hundreds of thousands of people could die.
“Unless this gets through we think that about 150,000 children may perish in the next few months," Ms Mordaunt said.
"Already about 400,000 are severely malnourished and the death rate is going to increase dramatically if we don’t get food, but also critically fuel, in as well.”
The Government has also announced an extra £50m of aid to Yemen to help provide extra fuel and food for its vulnerable population.