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EU resolution calls for Saudi arms embargo amid Yemen war

A general view of the European Parliament in session in Brussels, Belgium ©AP

The European Parliament has passed a resolution demanding the imposition of an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia as the kingdom continues with its deadly military campaign against neighboring Yemen.

On Thursday, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted 359 in favor, 212 against and with 31 abstentions for the motion, calling on EU member states to stop selling weapons to the Riyadh regime as it is accused of targeting civilians in Yemen.

Following the resolution’s adoption, Alyn Smith, the Greens/European Free Alliance foreign affairs spokesman, said the call for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia “reflects growing frustration at the conduct of war in Yemen by the Saudi Air Force.”

“Saudi Arabia is a top arms client of the UK and France, and there is evidence that these weapons have been used in gross violations of international law in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed since the start of the war,” Smith added.

According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi Arabia’s imports for 2011-15 increased by 275 percent compared with 2006–10. Britain and France are the main European suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia. The British government has licensed USD 7.8 billion in sales of arms, fighter jets and other military hardware to Riyadh since Prime Minister David Cameron came to power in 2010. France also signed USD 12 billion in contracts with Saudi Arabia in 2015 alone.

There are “real grounds to believe that EU-made weapons systems are being exported to Saudi,” he added, urging EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to examine how the embargo can be implemented.

The development came despite pressures by the Saudi ambassador to Brussels, Abdulrahman al-Ahmed, to prevent the MEPs from adopting the anti-Saudi motion.

Ahead of the vote, the Saudi diplomat had defended the kingdom’s ferocious military intervention which has left thousands of civilians dead in Yemen.

People inspect damage at a house after it was destroyed by a Saudi airstrike in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, February 25, 2016. ©Reuters

The European Parliament’s vote is not legally binding, but lawmakers hope it will pressure the EU to take action against Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has been under military attacks by Saudi Arabia since late March last year. More than 8,300 people, among them 2,236 children, have been killed and 16,015 others injured since the start of the attacks.

The strikes have taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools and factories.

In the latest wave of air raids on Thursday, Saudi fighter jets bombarded residential area in Yemen’s southwestern province of Ta’izz, killing four Yemeni citizens.

The Riyadh regime has also imposed a blockade on Yemen to prevent the flow of humanitarian aid into the impoverished country, fueling a severe food crisis there.

A recent UN report verified that Saudi Arabia has been systematically targeting civilians with airstrikes throughout the war, warning they amount to crimes against humanity.

The Riyadh military has come under fire on numerous occasions for targeting health facilities run by Doctors Without Borders.

The France-based medical charity has said Saudi Arabia is targeting Yemeni civilians with “utter disregard” for international law with “the silent consent” of the West and the UN Security Council.   

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