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Britain's May calls for end to Yemen war, pledges £200m in aid but continues weapons sale to Saudi

February 24, 2019 at 4:33 pm

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at European Council building to meet with President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium on February 7, 2019 [Dursun Aydemir / Anadolu Agency]

British Prime Minister Theresa May will call on Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to use his influence to encourage Yemeni parties towards peace, telling a summit that governments must redouble efforts to secure a political settlement to the crisis.

“My message in Sharm el-Sheikh is clear: let us now redouble our efforts to build on the progress made and get the Stockholm agreements implemented in full,” May was qouted by Reuters, on her way to the EU-League of Arab states summit in Egypt.

I will also use this summit to reiterate to King Salman the importance of Saudi Arabia continuing to use their influence to encourage the Yemeni parties towards peace, as they did so pivotally in Stockholm.

And I will underline the UK’s ongoing commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia and the region.

Speaking at a summit in Egypt on Sunday, the British prime minister pledged £200 million ($261 million) in aid for Yemen, saying the the new funding would be used to provide humanitarian aid for millions of people living without access to food or clean water.

This comes just days after British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, urged Germany to rethink it’s moratorium on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Hunt wants the German government to exempt big defence projects from its efforts to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia, or face damage to both its economic and European credentials.

Germany announced in November that it would provide no further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has not formally banned previously approved deals but has urged industry to refrain from such shipments for now.

Read: France calls on Germany to ease arms export rules

The UK has fiercely criticised the killing of Khashoggi, but has refused to ban arms sales. A Lords committee at the weekend said it believed the UK was narrowly on the wrong side of humanitarian law by selling arms to Saudi Arabia for use in the civil war in Yemen.

The war in Yemen has largely been stalemated for years, with a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states and Yemeni allies unable to dislodge the Iran-allied Houthi movement that controls the capital and most major population centres.

A ceasefire was agreed at talks at a castle near Stockholm last month. The agreement also foresees a political track of talks to end the war. But a lack of progress could test the patience of the United Arab Emirates, which leads military operations on Yemen’s Red Sea coast for the Saudi-led coalition.