UK to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia following government review

The UK government will resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia after a High Court ruling put a temporary suspension on exports last year.

An internal government review into the use of weapons by Saudi Arabia in Yemen has concluded that breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL) were just “isolated incidents”.

The move was quietly announced in a written statement to parliament by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

It came less than 24 hours after the government announced human rights sanctions against 20 senior Saudi regime officials for having “blood on their hands”.

“I have assessed that there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL,” Ms Truss said in the statement.

“The government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since 20 June last year.”

The UK is one of the biggest arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia and has sold in excess of £5bn of weapons to the kingdom since the bombing of Yemen started in 2015.

The news was quickly condemned by opposition MPs.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said she was “lost for words”.

“How the foreign secretary can say on one day that the UK will act as a force for good in the world, standing up for human rights, and then on the next, agree to this moral outrage, is just unbelievable,” she said.

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Andrew Smith, from Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said they were considering legal action.

“This is a disgraceful and morally bankrupt decision,” he said.

“The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the government itself admits that UK-made arms have played a central role on the bombing.”

Last week, the UN’s under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs told Sky News that Yemen was facing “the darkest moment I have ever seen.”

Two million children under the age of five in Yemen are believed to be malnourished. Of them, about 325,000 have severe, acute malnutrition.

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