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UK slams Saudi beheadings, but arms sales for Riyadh's Yemen war still go on

UK slams Saudi beheadings, but arms sales for Riyadh's Yemen war still go on
Saudi Arabia’s mass executions are “utterly unacceptable” and “repulsive” for the UK, but it less concerned when it comes to the ongoing arms sales to Riyadh, which continues its military campaign in the impoverished Yemen.

Joining the outrage from the UN, the Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan has issued a strong condemnation of the Saudi kingdom which has just executed 37 people, mostly Shia Muslims. The executions, during which one of them was crucified, were “repulsive” and “utterly unacceptable in the modern world,” Duncan told the House of Commons.

On its part, the EU’s foreign affairs service doubted that the right to a fair trial is respected in Saudi Arabia and said the gravity of the charges made against some convicts was also open to question.

In all, this is not the first time world powers have criticized the human rights record of the Gulf monarchy.

A number of Western states have tried to reprimand Saudi Arabia over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the detention of opposition activists, but they were generally not so outspoken about selling sophisticated weapons systems to the Gulf Kingdom.

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The US is Riyadh’s primary vendor of weapons, followed by the UK, Canada, Spain and other nations across Europe. The UK alone has already licensed $6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombardment of neighboring Yemen began in 2015.

Earlier in April, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) filed a lawsuit against the UK government, questioning the legality of its continued arms sales to the Saudis. The practice must be stopped as British-made jets and bombs have been contributing to a brutal military campaign, which saw 10,000 people killed in Yemen and created a “humanitarian catastrophe,” the group argued.

But London shows no sign of giving in to the demands and even condemns its allies for refusing to fuel the Saudi war machine. A few months ago, UK’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that he was “very concerned about the impact” from the German decision to cancel arms sales to Riyadh and warned that it would cost Berlin around €2.3 billion ($2.5bn) by 2026.

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Likewise, France put renewed pressure on Germany to drop its restrictions, with Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire saying, “it is useless to produce weapons through improved cooperation between France and Germany if we are unable to export them.”

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