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A TOP arms dealer has been heavily criticised by investors for making the bizarre claim that British bombs bring peace to Yemen, as part of a desperate bid to justify his firm’s arming of Saudi Arabia.
Speaking at the BAE Systems annual general meeting on Thursday, chairman Sir Roger Carr said his firm’s role was to “provide defence equipment that ultimately encourages peace.”
And speaking about the war in Yemen specifically, he said: “Saudi are not the aggressors, they are the defenders.”
He faced a barrage of questions from activist shareholders, who repeatedly accused the company of profiting from the war in Yemen, which is world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.
The arms dealer was quizzed by a British-Yemeni lawyer, 26-year-old Rehab Jaffer, whose family have been directly affected by the war.
Ms Jaffer told the BAE boss: “Your weapons are being used to slaughter children in Yemen.
“Saudi Arabia has targeted schools … it has targeted funerals, it has targeted weddings.”
She accused the arms dealer of “blindly” selling bombs to Saudi Arabia and failing to do any due diligence.
Mr Carr responded by saying he respected her “heritage and the fact that this is very real to you.”
But he went on to say: “It is a fact of life and a fact of war, that in warfare innocent people are hurt.”
He said civilian casualties were an “inevitability” and that the company’s “solution is to stop wars at the earliest opportunity.”
“Our belief is that if you provide first-class equipment, you are the encouragement, particularly when used in defence, for people to stop fighting,” Mr Carr claimed.
He continued to heap praise on Riyadh, saying: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a stabiliser in a very uncertain world.”
Speaking to the Morning Star after the event, Ms Jaffer said: “It’s so difficult to find a way to get a voice. There are so few Yemenis advocating.
“People tend to get targeted after speaking out. Their SIM cards are traced, so it can endanger your family there.”
Ms Jaffer wrote her masters thesis on the arms trade and studied how states can be held accountable, because she was horrified by the bombing of Yemen.
“My family have seen their neighbours houses completely demolished, and children kidnapped by rebels to use as soldiers, so this is not a matter of defending the Houthis,” she said.
“But we have to wonder what Saudi Arabia has to gain from bombing Yemen, a country which has strategic ports for exports and access to oil.
“Sir Roger himself specified the economic gain of trading with Saudi Arabia and said they are only able to do it because the British government contracts them to.
“But he failed to mention that his company has been involved in lobbying politicians by inviting them to lavish dinners where meals cost up £450 per plate.”
The arms dealer fielded questions from shareholders for around an hour, many of them highly critical of the company’s ethics.
Each time Mr Carr shot back and doubled down on the company’s right to sell bombs for the war in Yemen.
He argued it was better that Britain supported Saudi Arabia instead of somebody else “who may not seek to influence outcomes that we in this room collectively want to see.”
But Ms Jaffer told the Star: “It seems that Sir Roger is suggesting that they have holier than though intentions, when he’s made it quite clear his thoughts are on the economic benefit of these arms sales.
“The only gap that he’s concerned about filling is in fact a financial one.”
British judges are currently reviewing whether the government can license arms sales to Saudi Arabia in light of a growing catalogue of civilian casualties.
The Court of Appeal’s judgment is expected later this year.
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