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A woman sits with her sons while they are treated at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen October 8.
A woman sits with her sons while they are treated at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen October 8.

European Parliament Renews Call for Saudi Arms Embargo

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The European Parliament has sent a clear, strong and unambiguous message to governments like the UK, that have been utterly complicit in the destruction of Yemen”

European Parliament Renews Call for Saudi Arms Embargo

The European Parliament has renewed its call for an EU-wide arms embargo against Saudi Arabia the day after British Prime Minister Theresa May visited the country with a pledge to build a close relationship with its regime.

MPs voted by 368 to 221 to back an embargo against the autocratic petrostate, whose intervention in Yemen has been blamed for causing thousands of civilian deaths and exacerbating a severe shortage of food, news outlets reported.

The UK is one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest arms suppliers, having sold £4.6 billion worth of controlled arms since the bombardment of Yemen started in 2015. Of that figure, £1.9 billion is said by the government to be bombs or missiles and £2.7 billion worth of aircraft.

A US-backed Saudi-led coalition has been ceaselessly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall a former regime allied to Riyadh.

Saudi forces have been widely accused of committing war crimes during the campaign in the country, where reports on the ground suggest they have blown up international hospitals, funerals, schools, and weddings. Peace talks led by the UN have been frozen since August 2016 after no agreement was made.

Speaking in a debate ahead of the vote, Christos Stylianides, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid, told the parliament that Saudi Arabia was preventing aid from getting through despite a looming famine.

 “Commercial goods cannot enter the areas beyond the government’s control. Most Yemenis no longer have the means to get food or fuel. Such escalation has worsened an already dire humanitarian situation,” he said, The Independent reported.

Victor Bostinaru, a socialist group MEP, said: “In Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, war and famine continue with impunity, and civilians die under bombs of one of the richest countries in the world, Suaid Arabia, the country we are continuing to sell arms to and offer support.”

The parliament’s renewal of a call follows the call by two British parliamentary committees which also called for a ban.  

May on Thursday defended her friendly visit to Saudi Arabia, telling reporters who accompanied her on her visit that she was “very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen” but that “building our relationship with [Saudi Arabia] enables us to get that greater knowledge and understanding which enables us to address issues which are of concern to us”.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The European Parliament has sent a clear, strong and unambiguous message to governments like the UK, that have been utterly complicit in the destruction of Yemen.”

European arms have played a central role in the bombardment. The situation has become even worse over recent months with the devastating blockade of Yemeni ports, and the worst cholera outbreak on record.

  Blockade Must Be Fully lifted

UN humanitarian affairs chief Mark Lowcock said on Friday that the Saudi-led military coalition must fully lift its blockade on Yemen, where 7 or 8 million are “right on the brink of famine,” Reuters reported.

“That blockade has been partially wound down but not fully wound down. It needs to be fully wound down if we are to avoid an atrocious humanitarian tragedy involving the loss of millions of lives, the like of which the world has not seen for many decades,” he said.

However, he declined to say on Friday if the Saudi-led blockade on Yemen was a breach of international law, but said there were laws of war and they needed to be respected.

“From the (UN) secretary-general down we’ve consistently called on all parties to uphold their obligations and we condemned flagrant breaches whenever they occur,” Lowcock said.

Pressed on the legality of the blockade, he said: “It is absolutely essential that people uphold their international obligations. Wars have rules and they need to be complied with.”

  Missile Intercepted

Meanwhile, a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s armed Houthi group at Saudi Arabia was shot down on Thursday near the south-western city of Khamis Mushait, the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya channel reported.

It was the second ballistic missile fired from Yemen this month, after an earlier rocket was brought down near King Khaled Airport on the northern outskirts of the capital Riyadh.

“Air defense intercepted a ballistic missile, fired by the Houthis toward Khamis Mushait,” Arabiya said on its Twitter account, without giving details.

The Houthis and allied militias loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who have fired dozens of missiles into Saudi territory during a 2-1/2 year war, said on their official news agency they had launched a mid-range ballistic missile that “hit its military target with high precision”.

SABA, quoting a military source, added the “successful test was a new start of locally made missile launches”.

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