Europe Calls for Ban on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

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February 25, 2016

The European Parliament on Thursday called for an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia due to civilian casualties in the war that country is waging in Yemen.

Fighters loyal to the Saudi-led coalition stand guard in Taiz, Yemen, in November. Europe has banned arm sales to Saudi Arabia amid humanitarian crises in Yemen.

February 25, 2016

The European Parliament on Thursday called for an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia due to civilian casualties in the war that country is waging in Yemen.

Fighters loyal to the Saudi-led coalition stand guard in Taiz, Yemen, in November. Europe has banned arm sales to Saudi Arabia amid humanitarian crises in Yemen.

The vote is nonbinding but awkward for several European countries that provide weapons to Saudi Arabia as well as the U.S., which also sells arms to the kingdom. The two countries increased such cooperation following the signing of last year's nuclear deal with Iran, an attempt by President Barack Obama to demonstrate that the agreement did not signal a departure from the long-standing partnership in favor of Tehran. The U.S. has largely turned a blind eye to Saudi action in Yemen in exchange for Riyadh's tacit support for the nuclear deal.

Britain and France are the largest suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia, which is fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen on behalf of the country's government. Britain has sold more than $4.1 billion in arms to Riyadh in the past year.

European Union lawmakers are concerned by the growing death toll in Yemen, where an estimated 3,000 of the 6,000 deaths that have occurred since Saudi Arabia became involved are reported to be civilians.

The EU resolution says an embargo is necessary due to "the serious allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen."

The Saudis, who lead a coalition of Arab nations fighting in Yemen, deny that their operations target civilians. Riyadh's ambassador to the EU, Abdulrahman Al Ahmed, told parliament members in a letter ahead of the vote that "the larger ramifications of our not taking action in Yemen would have had devastating geopolitical consequences for the kingdom, Europe and the broader West as well."

Saudi Arabia maintains that its action in Yemen is necessary to counter Iran, which it sees as a threat to regional stability. The two countries also back opposing sides in the Syrian civil war.

"Left unchecked by Saudi Arabia, Yemen's political power shift and resulting civil war would have left that country deeply vulnerable to the violent influence of terror groups already inflaming the region," Ahmed wrote to EU lawmakers.


Courtesy: US News & World Report

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