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LABOUR savaged Theresa May today over her “inherently contradictory” actions in having sold weapons used in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen while boasting of sending aid to Yemenis.
Shadow peace minister Fabian Hamilton told the Morning Star that the £4.6 billion worth of “absolutely sickening” arms export licences from Britain to Saudi Arabia are a “moral stain on our country.”
He slammed the government for allowing sales of arms to Saudi Arabia even when the United Nations described the situation in Yemen as the world’s biggest preventable humanitarian disaster.
The licences were only suspended when the Court of Appeal ruled last week that they were unlawful. The government has insisted that it will appeal the decision.
Mr Hamilton added: “Labour is calling for an independent inquiry into how these arms sales were approved and allowed to continue.
“The public deserve to know who made these decisions and which government ministers were involved in making them.”
He said that a Labour government would have a foreign policy based on peace and “not profit.” This would include the complete suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending a full, independent UN-led investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian law.
His comments came after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn confronted Prime Minister Theresa May on the government’s arms sales.
During Prime Minister’s Questions he urged the PM to abandon arms exports to Saudi Arabia permanently in a bid to bring about peace in Yemen and save thousands of lives.
He told MPs there is “overwhelming evidence” that war crimes are being committed in Yemen. He criticised Saudi Arabia for “flouting every human rights norm” at home and abroad while also “funding extremism around the world.”
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Yemen’s civil war. It pitches Iran-backed Houthi rebels against a coalition led by Saudi Arabia in support of the government of Yemen.
Mr Corbyn said: “The UN itself has warned that by the end of 2019, if the war continues, 230,000 people will have lost their lives, of whom 140,000 are children under the age of five.”
Ms May responded by saying that Britain has sent £770 million in aid to Yemen since the start of the conflict in 2015. This was as her government continued to grant arms export licences to Saudi Arabia.
She insisted that a politicial solution must be reached so that “humanitarian supply lines can be opened up.” She suggested that government aid is not reaching people in Yemen.
Mr Corbyn challenged the PM to follow the lead of Germany, Denmark and the US in banning the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.
He also pressed Ms May over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as an independent UN human rights expert last week recommended an investigation into the involvement of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
She replied that she wants to see “accountability” for the “horrific murder.”
Former Tory international development secretary Andrew Mitchell later called for Britain to adopt a “position of far greater neutrality supporting a comprehensive ceasefire” between the Saudis and Houthis.
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle — member of the committee on arms export controls — told the Star that Britain should “take a more neutral line.”
He also said: “The situation in Yemen is extremely complex … It does not help for Western countries to intervene and moralise on one side or another.
“People in Yemen believe this is a British war with British people training pilots, British bombs, and British personnel working in the control centres where routes are planned.”
In the US President Donald Trump has been forced to use emergency powers to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia which the Senate is refusing to endorse.
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