A new report reveals that British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urged the UK government to continue arms sales to Saudi Arabia even after a deadly airstrike on a funeral in Yemen last October that killed over 140 people.
In a letter dated one month after the Saudi bombing, which sparked global condemnation, Johnson pressed Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox to continue sending weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to the Guardian newspaper.
“I am aware you have deferred a decision on four export license applications to supply the Royal Saudi Air Force with equipment which could be used in the conflict in Yemen,” Johnson wrote.
“The issue is extremely finely balanced, but I judge at present the Saudis appear committed both to improving processes and to taking action to address failures/individual incidents,” the foreign secretary wrote.
Fox delayed signing off on further weapons exports to the Saudi air force following the strike but agreed to continue arming Riyadh in the light of Johnson’s assessment
In his reply letter to Johnson dated November 17, Fox warned that the situation in Yemen remained risky.
“I agree that this is an extremely complex situation and that the issue of clear risk is extremely finely balanced. In the light of your assessment and [redacted] recent advice I accept that we should continue, for the present, to assess export licenses for Saudi Arabia on a case-by-case basis,” Fox wrote.
“In doing so I want to be very clear with you about the risks inherent in making this decision, not just because of the grave situation in Yemen,” he added.
Tom Brake, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, blasted the UK government for approving more arms sales to Riyadh.
“Saudi Arabia’s vicious campaign in Yemen has cost thousands of lives and left a country in ruins, and this Tory government are complicit in that tragedy.”
The Saudi airstrike on October 8 on the funeral in the Yemeni capital Sana’a was among the bloodiest incidents in a conflict that has cost the lives of over 11,000 Yemenis.
Saudi Arabia launched a war against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to bring back the former government to power and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.