Thank you for contacting me about military exports to Saudi Arabia.
I fully appreciate your concerns about military exports to Saudi Arabia. I want to reassure you that in accordance with the Court of Appeal's judgement in June 2019, the Secretary of State for International Trade has now retaken licensing decisions regarding military exports to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen on the correct legal basis.
New licence applications will be assessed against a revised methodology, which evaluates whether there is a clear risk that the equipment might be used in the commission of a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law. On this basis, I understand Ministers are now in a position to begin the process of addressing licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners again.
I have been assured that each application will be carefully assessed against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria and that a licence will not be granted if to do so would be a breach of the criteria.
Regarding Yemen, the UK has been at the forefront of international diplomatic efforts to bring a peaceful solution to the appalling conflict in that country, fully supporting the UN Secretary-General and the UN Special Envoy’s peace plan. The Prime Minister discussed Yemen with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last September, and British officials have continued to engage with all parties concerned since. This has been done bilaterally and via the UN Security Council, where the UK's has used its role as a penholder to move the peace process forward and ensure that Yemen continues to be a top priority for the international community.
The UK’s long-standing position on Yemen is that there is no military solution to this conflict, and only a political settlement can bring long-term stability to Yemen and tackle the worsening humanitarian crisis. I have been assured that the UK is not a party to the military conflict as part of the Saudi-led coalition.
I welcome the move by President Biden to review US foreign policy towards Yemen. I am told that our Ambassador in Washington has already met with the new US Envoy, and I know that the UK will continue to engage with the US and other UN allies in order to bring about a viable solution to the crisis in Yemen. Additionally, I understand that President Biden has frozen some arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
UK support to Yemen since the beginning of the conflict now totals nearly £1 billion and I strongly welcome the Government’s latest announcement of a £160 million aid package to support Yemen’s health services in the fight against Coronavirus and prevent a worsening of the humanitarian crisis. UK aid has helped meet the immediate food needs of millions of Yemenis, treated thousands of children for malnutrition and provided over one million people with improved water supply and basic sanitation; and such support will continue for as long as is necessary.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP