07/08/2020, 09.43
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London gives go-ahead to Saudi arms sale for use in Yemen

The British government maintains the civilian casualties in the conflict are "isolated incidents" and there is no "clear risk" of new episodes in the future. NGOs and international bodies fear increase in deaths among the population. Globally the Saudi kingdom is the biggest buyer of weapons of war.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - London is ready to resume the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, despite the concerns of international activists and NGOs that they can be used against the civilian population in Yemen, in violation of international humanitarian law.

Trade was suspended last year following a legal battle; in recent years Riyadh has been the world’s number one buyer of weapons of war.

A study sponsored by the UK authorities highlighted "isolated incidents" and possible violations of international law, while excluding the "clear risk" of future attacks and violence related to the sale. In reality, for those who fight against the arms trade like the "Campaign Against the Arms Trade" movement, the decision is "morally bankrupt".

A top Vatican representative also intervened against the global arms trade and the spike in military spending, in a context of world emergency triggered by the new coronavirus pandemic.

In a meeting held yesterday, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appia Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the service of integral human development and chairman of the commission for Covid-19, asked that the pandemic stop military spending and promote security.

However, in spite of the appeals, the lethal trade continues to sow death and the consequences are paid by the civilian population as in Yemen, where thousands of people, including women and children, have died due to the bombings and millions have been left homeless. UN sources speak of 7700 civilians killed since 2015, 60% of whom were hit by bombs launched by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, which also includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In a statement, British Minister of International Trade Liz Truss spoke of an in-depth study of the incidents that have taken place in recent years. And, while admitting some "possible" violations, the London government representative stresses that these are "isolated incidents".

"In the light of all that information and analysis, I have concluded that...Saudi Arabia has a genuine intent and the capacity to comply with international humanitarian law," she said. "On that basis, 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."

Campaign Against the Arms Trade activists reply that the London government's decision is "shameful" because Saudi bombings in Yemen created "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world" and "British weapons played" a role". In recent years civilians have been hit in the midst of weddings, funerals and market expenses: "The government - the activists conclude - says that these are isolated incidents, but how many hundreds of isolated incidents will it take for the government to stop providing weaponry?".

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