Saudi-UK Arms Sales May Boost Economy, But What About Innocent Lives?

Saudi-UK Arms Sales May Boost Economy, But What About Innocent Lives? 

For a long time now, both Saudi Arabia and the UK have been strategic allies. With nearly 200 joint ventures worth $17.5 billion between both the companies in both the countries, Saudi Arabia is often considered UK’s primary trading partner in the entire Middle East. Similarly, the UK is Saudi’s closest ally in Europe. Taking into consideration all the scenarios, the experts are positive that the UK arms sales to the Saudi are to be resumed soon.

The analysis came after the UK, which is the biggest supplier of weapons to Saudi, announced to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite various fears invoked by the campaigners who claimed that the weapons could be used to commit more war-crimes in Yemen.

Over the time, Yemen has been completely devastated by the war conflict, initiated by the Saudi-led coalition and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. The war has also resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the poorest Arab nation. Under such circumstances, the campaigners fear that the UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia could heighten the existing war-crisis and might add to the civilians’ suffering in Yemen.

Recently, Britain announced to impose new sanctions against the human rights abusers, including 20 Saudi Arabian nationals who were involved in the murder of the Saudi Arabian dissident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. The decision of revoking arms sales ban came a day after the announced sanctions.

As Saudi Arabia wishes to jumpstart its economy that has long been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it needs all the support it can get from the global powers. Improving its relations with the UK through trade appears to be a key perspective. Saudi also unveiled a six-point business plan for the same. The cooperation between governments, global governance institutions and businesses is being considered a vital part for mitigating the global lockdown effects and overcome economic recession.

Last year, the UK government suspended the arms sales to the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The suspension came after London’s Court of Appeal ruled that the UK needs to assess whether Saudi violated the international human rights law during its military campaigning in Yemen.

Recently, the UK government found that there had been no “pattern” of Saudi Arabian air strikes that breached the international law. This resulted in the reversal of UK arms sales ban to Saudi. Supporting the ban removal decision, the International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss said that there have been only isolated incidents of violations.

Truss further added that even the incidents of possible violations of the law happened at different times and in different circumstances and different reasons. She further stated, “Saudi has a genuine intent and the capacity to comply with [international law].”

The UK officials are now expected to work on clearing the backlog of licence requests, accumulated since the suspension last year. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which was responsible behind UK arms sales ban to Saudi, said the government’s decision was “morally bankrupt”.

CAAT media co-ordinator Andrew Smith said that there was a clear evidence of “heinous and appalling” breaches of international humanitarian law by the conflicting parties in Yemen. He added that it is the Saudi-led bombardment that is responsible for Yemen’s devastation. Similarly, another activist from leading humanitarian organisation called ‘Save the Children’, described the UK’s resumption of arms exports as “indefensible”.

For sure, there is no telling as to how long will the people in Yemen have to wait until there is a complete surety of whether the UK arms sales to Saudi wouldn’t cost them their life.

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