British arms sales prolonging Saudi war in Yemen, says Oxfam

Oxfam has accused the British government of prolonging the war in Yemen by allowing the export of air-to-air refuelling equipment that it fears could be used to help the Saudi air force conduct indiscriminate bombing in the country.

The technology was licensed to Riyadh last summer when arms restrictions were lifted, alongside £1.4bn of other sales, and can be used to help war planes fly longer missions at a time when the conflict intensifying.  

Sam Nadel, head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam, said: “As the US has called for an end to the conflict in Yemen, the UK is heading in the opposite direction, ramping up its support for the brutal Saudi-led war by increasing arms sales and refuelling equipment that facilitate airstrikes.”

The British charity has called on both sides to adopt an urgent ceasefire, and on the UK to halt all arms exports that could be used in the conflict. “The UK claims to support peace in Yemen. It can start by immediately ending the sale of all arms that risk being used against civilians and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis,” Nadel added.

British ministers – the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, and the international trade secretary, Liz Truss – approved a surge in arms exports to Saudi Arabia in the third quarter of 2020, after concluding, following a court-mandated review, that there were only “isolated incidents” of breaches of humanitarian law.

The exports totalled at least £1.4bn and included the export of “airborne refuelling equipment” and related components under an open export licence – as well as nearly £700m of bomb components and £100m of air-to-surface missiles.

The Saudi-led coalition - relying on equipment supplied by the west - has been repeatedly accused of conducting indiscriminate bombing since entering the conflict in 2015, killing, wounding and displacing civilians.

Source: Agencies