Mon, 15 August 2022

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The government must establish a more ethical foreign policy

The government must establish a more ethical foreign policy
4 min read

This government’s approach to the conflict in Yemen is putting our country to shame. It’s time to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and establish a more ethical foreign policy, writes Fabian Hamilton

As the fighting around the key humanitarian supply port of Hodeidah continues, there are at least 50 new cases of child malnutrition reported every day as the UN warns of “one of the worst famines in living memory”.

It is nothing short of shameful that the UK has blocked action at the UN Security Council to stop the conflict, instead preferring to arm and assist the Saudi-led coalition’s attacks on Yemen. Only now that the USA has called for an end to the conflict has the UK found the courage to speak out in support of a ceasefire.

This has gone on long enough. Action, rather than empty rhetoric, is needed to stop more civilian casualties in Yemen.

Getting the Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition around the negotiating table should now be the top foreign policy priority for any nation that wants to help bring the largest humanitarian crisis in the world to an end.

Donald Trump’s claim that the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing of a school bus in August, which killed 51 children, was due to ‘user error’ is his attempt to pass the buck. In reality it is likely that American and British weapons are being used to kill innocent civilians every single day.

This must now be called out for what it is: Saudi-led indiscriminate bombing – and a clear breach of international law. Over thirteen million people are now at risk of famine, including many children. But, by continuing to supply arms and ammunition to the Saudis, Britain would appear to be complicit.

The possibility that British arms may be responsible for the death of innocent children is absolutely sickening, and unforgivable. The British government has prevaricated for too long and should have been using its position as the ‘penholder’ on Yemen at the UN to call for a ceasefire resolution much sooner.

Instead, the government has allowed the Saudis to get away with murder. No matter how long Saudi Arabia has acted as a strategic partner of Britain’s in the Middle East, we must stop protecting them on the international stage and handing them a ‘blank cheque’ which allows them to flout international law.

Suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending an independent, UN-led investigation of those alleged war crimes has been longstanding Labour Party policy. So, while the Saudis continue to violate their own ‘no-strike’ zones, it will be difficult to rebuild relations between the Labour Party and those in the Saudi-led coalition.

It should not have taken Donald Trump to call for a cessation of hostilities for the Foreign Secretary finally to call for a UN Resolution to end the fighting. It is a common feature of this government to blindly follow the United States’ lead on foreign policy issues, which under the leadership of Donald Trump, is so often misguided and packed with dangerous escalatory rhetoric.

Labour would work with the United Nations to bring about a proper ceasefire resolution in Yemen, using our position on the UN Security Council to protect civilian life. Restoring dialogue between the Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition would send a clear message to the international community – that we in the UK are serious about intervening in conflicts abroad, on humanitarian grounds and with a clear plan in mind to end conflict and rebuild peace.

Furthermore, the international community has shown some disregard for those experiencing this conflict in Yemen itself. We must listen and work with those on the ground. UNICEF claims that 1.8 million children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition, as the world watches on, and a generation of Yemenis starve.

The international community is crying out for leadership on this issue, and it is time that we stepped up to the role. The good name of our incorruptible British Armed Forces is being put to shame, as we continue to sell the very planes that are dropping bombs on civilians, sometimes even destroying our own supplies in the process. The government must establish a more ethical foreign policy and encourage our allies to do the same.

We face setting a dangerous precedent for the future if we do not act right now and with utmost urgency to end the war on Yemen’s children. 

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