May Calls on Saudis to End Yemen War

May Calls on Saudis to End Yemen WarMay Calls on Saudis to End Yemen War

In a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is said to have called for the country to end its involvement in the Yemeni civil war, and comply with international humanitarian law. Nonetheless, there is as yet no suggestion that UK arms sales to Riyadh will cease.

While Westminster remains in recess, ministers are still at work, jetting round the world on official trips, and hosting visits from allies — on September 4, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir flew to London for a “short” meeting with May in Downing Street, Sputnik reported.

The pair are said to have discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, including the ongoing isolation of Qatar in the Persian Gulf region, with the prime minister “reiterating her call” for all sides to take steps to deescalate the situation and restore (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council unity.

“The prime minister noted [Saudi Arabia’s] focus on transformation, innovation and empowerment and said the UK looked forward to continuing to work closely with Saudi Arabia on this ambitious project. She hoped that Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman would be able to visit the UK in the near future to build on the historic partnership between the two countries,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Finally and most significantly, however, the pair have reportedly discussed Yemen, in particular “the need to bring the conflict to an end, and the continued importance of demonstrating compliance with international humanitarian law.”

Demands that hostilities in the region cease, and Saudi-led coalition forces respect human rights, are nothing new —in fact, grave concerns about the burgeoning humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and the deliberate targeting of civilians by coalition forces, are almost as old as the conflict itself.

However, May’s meeting marks the first time UK officials have acknowledged such anxieties —previously, ministers have at best dismissed them, at worst ignored them outright. Notoriously, in May Defense Minister Michael Fallon said Riyadh was merely “defending itself” by raining down death and destruction on Yemen.

Every step of the conflict, the UK has shipped weapons —totaling almost US$4.5 billion in value— to Riyadh, with sales continuing even after the now infamous October 2016 airstrike on a Yemeni funeral, which killed 140 and injured hundreds, with Westminster approving export licenses totaling US$370 million.

Caption: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud stands next to British Prime Minister Theresa May during a reception ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 5.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints