By James Moules
JEREMY Corbyn has reiterated his call for an immediate cessation of arms sales to Saudi Arabia – decrying the nation’s military intervention in an ever increasingly desperate Yemen.
Last month, the UK government announced that the licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia would resume. The sales were halted after a Court of Appeal ruling required an assessment as to whether the arms could be used in breaches of International Humanitarian Law.
The government’s decision provoked outrage from numerous opposition MPs and campaigners.
In a recent video discussion hosted by Stop the War, the former Labour leader repeated these calls to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Corbyn described the plight on the Yemeni people as “the biggest humanitarian crisis anywhere in the world.”
Since the civil war broke out in 2015, tens of thousands of Yemeni people have died or been killed – with many dying as a result of widespread famine.
In June, a UN fundraiser fell £1 billion short of the money needed to supply vital aid to Yemen throughout the rest of the year.
Mr Corbyn went on: “Before our very eyes, people are dying from cholera, malnutrition, hunger and diarrhea – all of which are totally and wholly preventable.”
He also said he was proud to have committed to ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia in both the general election campaigns through which he led the party.
“When I became Leader of the Labour Party in 2015, I set out my objectives on foreign policy, which was that I wanted to lead a country and a government whose watchword would be human rights, whose watchword would be environmental sustainability, whose watchword would be ending global inequality and poverty, whose watchword would be the survival of the poorest all around the world.”
He added: “We cannot pretend to be in favour of human rights, peace and justice around the world at the same time we’re providing the wherewithal for the war that Saudi Arabia and others are waging against the people of Yemen.”
However, the UK government has defended its stance on arms sales to Saudi Arabia – it maintains that weapons sales will be assessed in accordance with the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
Responding to an urgent question, Minister for Trade Policy Greg Hands said: “The Secretary of State has retaken the licensing decisions, as required by the Court of Appeal.
“All existing and new applications for Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen will be assessed against the revised methodology, which considers whether there is a clear risk that the equipment might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”
The UK government also cites its record of providing aid to Yemen throughout the conflict. In June, it pledged £160 million towards relieving the humanitarian situation – including the coronavirus outbreak.
During the STW meeting, Mr Corbyn called on campaigners in the UK to continue both giving aid and pressuring the government to end arms sales.
“I hope that we can stand with the people of Yemen, understand the history, understand what they’re going through, give whatever aid and support we personally can through fundraising efforts – that is obviously something that is very important – but above all make the political noise, the political demand that arms sales must cease now, the bombing must stop now.”
He added: “If we can force the British government to end arms supplies, then that will have a big effect and embolden our friends in the United States and other places to do exactly the same.”
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