EXCLUSIVE: MoD confirms Britain is arming Saudi Arabia in Yemen conflict
Britain’s Ministry of Defence has confirmed it is providing technical support and arming Saudi Arabia in its ongoing war against Yemen, RT has learned.
An MoD spokesperson said the UK’s assistance to Saudi Arabia includes providing “precision guided weapons,” but added the British government had been assured they will be used in compliance with international law.
Anti-arms trade campaigners condemned Britain’s support for the Gulf monarchy, claiming the UK cares more about arms sales than human rights and democracy.
RT contacted the MoD to ask if British weapons are being used in Saudi airstrikes on Yemen and if the UK is providing assistance to the Saudi-led coalition.
An MoD spokesperson replied: “The UK is not participating directly in Saudi military operations. We are providing support to the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces and as part of pre-existing arrangements are providing precision guided weapons to assist the Saudi Air Force.
“The use of these weapons is a matter for the Saudis but we are assured that they will be used in compliance with international law.”
The MoD’s response confirms suspicions held by anti-arms trade campaigners that Britain is providing support for a war that top Yemeni academics based in the West have branded “illegal.”
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said: “The Saudi bombing has created a humanitarian catastrophe and now we know the UK weapons have contributed to it.”
“These weapons have not just given military support to the bombardment, they have also provided a strong political support and underlined the closeness between the UK and Saudi governments.”
“With the destruction of Yemen and the intensifying crackdown on dissent in Saudi Arabia, the UK government is sending the message that human rights and democracy are less important than arms sales,” he added.
CAAT said the “precision guided weapons” used by the Saudi Air Force are likely to be Eurofighter Typhoons or Tornado jets.
Saudi Arabia has spent an estimated £2.5 billion upgrading its fleet of 73 Tornados as part of a deal negotiated with UK-based arms manufacturers BAE Systems.
Saudi Arabia and the UK have long had close dealings in the arms trade. Saudi Arabia is Britain’s largest customer for weapons and the UK is the Gulf nation’s single biggest supplier, according to CAAT.
An Amnesty International report found that British fighter jets were “extremely likely” to have been used in the 2009 Saudi bombing of Yemen.
At the time Amnesty called on the UK government to ensure British weapons “did not facilitate violations of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes, by the Saudi Arabian air force.”
The confirmation of Britain’s indirect support for the Gulf kingdom’s war against Shia Houthi rebels comes as the reported total casualties pass the 10,000 mark.
According to UN estimates, 2,288 people have died as a result of Saudi Arabian airstrikes, half of whom are civilians. Another 9,755 are reported to have been wounded.
UNICEF stated in late May that 135 children had been killed and 260 wounded since the start of the conflict in March.
Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is also becoming increasingly grim, with the World Health Organization warning that 8.6 million people are in need of “urgent” medical aid.