EXCL Labour fury over UK-Saudi humanitarian aid partnership amid Yemen crisis

Posted On: 
9th March 2018

Labour has blasted the Government over a new aid partnership signed with Saudi Arabia amid major humanitarian concerns over its war in Yemen.

Theresa May and Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman at Downing Street
Credit: 
PA Images

Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor said Theresa May was “auctioning off Britain’s credibility as a humanitarian power to the highest bidder”.

Ministers signed a £100m aid agreement with the Saudis to coincide with the controversial visit of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to the UK, it has emerged.

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The two countries will work together to “support some of the world’s poorest people in drought and conflict-stricken countries,” the Government said.

But it comes amid growing concern about the bombing and starvation of civilians in Yemen - where a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been battling Houthi rebels since 2015.

A report by Unicef in January said 5,000 children had been killed in the war, while a blockade on food and fuel has left some 22 million Yemenis who rely on humanitarian support without much-needed supplies.

Jeremy Corbyn accused the Government of "colluding" in war crimes by directing the war in Yemen - claims dismissed as false by Downing Street.

Lashing out at the new aid agreement with Riyadh - which will deliver help in poverty-stricken regions of Africa - A furious Ms Osamor told PoliticsHome: “Even for the Tories, this is a new low.

"It beggars belief that with Saudi Arabia bombing civilians and frustrating aid access for 8.4 million Yemenis facing imminent famine, Theresa May thinks it right to buddy up as a humanitarian partner.

“Rolling out the red carpet is one thing, but auctioning off Britain’s credibility as a humanitarian power to the highest bidder is quite another.”

The aid agreement is the first of its kind between the UK government and KS Relief - the global assistance arm of the brutal Saudi regime.

The Government said that during meetings with the Saudi delegation it was “encouraged by the easing of restrictions” of supplies into Yemen and said there was “no excuse” for blocking vital food and commercial goods.

In December the World Health Organisation said some 500,000 Yemenis were suspected to have contracted cholera in the war-torn nation as a result of the conditions there.

A Labour source noted concerns that the aid agreement had been signed with no guarantee of a permanent lifting of the blockade of goods into Yemen or a ceasefire in the region.

The source added that it was unclear what the £100m will be spent on, and whether the UK had attached any safeguards.

'BOOSTING PROSPERITY'

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “The Saudi Fund has a long record of investing in successful development projects around the world.

“We are sharing the best of British expertise, and our collective efforts will help create jobs and livelihoods to support the poorest people to stand on their own two feet.

“This in turn will help to boost global prosperity which is in all our interests.”

In December she said of the Saudis: “It is very clear that if you are using starvation as a weapon you are in breach of international humanitarian law...

"And what I have seen on my visit is that what is being held up is aid."