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Saudi aid package for Yemen labelled ‘a cynical exercise’

March 1, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Saudi Arabia’s aid plan for Yemen has been called out as a public relations stunt by a British Member of Parliament, the Guardian reported today.

Saudi Arabia announced a $3.5 billion “Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations” plan in January, after levying a blockade impacting more than eight million Yemenis. The plan rejects calls by the UN to lift a blockade on Houthi-controlled Hudaydah port, a crucial life line for civilians living in the north. Yemen continues to be posed with acute malnutrition with nearly one million people infected with cholera. To add to the deteriorating health crisis, some suspected cases of bird flu have emerged in recent days.

“The Saudi humanitarian support package is rather like a torturer following a session of pain-inducing activity bringing his victim a cup of coffee,” Andrew Mitchell, Tory MP and former international development secretary, said.

Frankly, it has all the appearance of a cynical PR exercise. It is hard to take seriously a humanitarian relief plan which is accompanied, night after night, by major bombing attacks from the Saudi air force which are killing innocent civilians.

UK Member of Parliament Andrew Mitchell [Parliament website]

UK Member of Parliament Andrew Mitchell [Parliament website]

Despite British criticism over the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, the United Kingdom considers it “lawful” to continue selling weapons to Saudi Arabia according to a British High Court ruling last year. The ruling came after lawyers and human rights groups raised concerns over civilian casualties and war crimes committed in Yemen. Some 10,000 Yemenis have already been killed.

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Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Arab states to neutralise territorial threats posed by the Houthis, who currently control swathes of territory from northern Saada to Sana’a. It joined the civil conflict in March 2015 following a request from the internationally recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) based in Britain condemned the Saudi aid plan as a “war tactic” in a press release last month.  “At worst, it would dangerously politicise humanitarian aid by placing far too much control over the response in the hands of an active party to the conflict,” Amanda Catanzano, advocacy director at the IRC said.

Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion dollar aid plan was also exposed last month for recruiting a plethora of British and American public relations firms to promote its aid for Yemen, in an investigation published by IRIN News. One of the aims was to ensure that vital aid imports were not sent to Hudaydah port which is currently governed by the Houthis.

A panel of UN Yemen experts submitted a 329-page report to the UN Security Council early in the year telling how the Saudi-led coalition used the threat of starvation as an “instrument of war”.

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