Saudi Arabia

Thank you for contacting me about UK relations with Saudi Arabia. 

First, on arms sales, I know that the Government takes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously, with one of the most robust export control regimes in the world.  Export licensing to all destinations is kept under constant review, including in light of military action by the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen and indeed any implications that arise from the Khashoggi investigation. The Government will not issue an export licence if it considers that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.  In July last year, the High Court ruled that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia were compliant with those regulations.

The crisis in Yemen is severe.  There are no easy solutions and I share your concerns regarding the plight of the Yemeni people who are caught up in the conflict.  I am proud that the UK is leading the global response to this crisis in Yemen, as the fourth largest humanitarian donor to the country.  In the last year, the UK contributed £170 million to famine relief.  The UK also continues to work hard to achieve stability in the region and is playing a leading role in diplomatic efforts, including bringing together key international actors to try to find a peaceful solution. Peace talks and a political process are the UK’s priority and the UK uses its relationship with Saudi Arabia to press for that.

As you will know, we have an important strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia, which has saved lives on the streets of Britain as a result of Saudi intelligence on the activities of terrorist organisations. We also have a trading partnership that supports thousands of jobs. 

However, in the light of recent events, I would like to assure you that the UK has been active in calling for answers about the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and has condemned it in the strongest terms. The Prime Minister spoke to King Salman on 24 October and reiterated our desire for a credible explanation following a full investigation. The circumstances around Mr Khashoggi’s death do look to be pre-meditated murder, and that has been admitted by the prosecutor in Saudi Arabia. The UK has called for a full investigation, line of responsibility and accountability. At the end of that, I am assured that the UK will calibrate its response to what has happened based on the credibility of the explanations, and the confidence the UK has that events cannot and would not be repeated. The UK continues to use its access to Saudi leaders to press our concerns about human rights. 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

November 2018