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Rights groups slam Australia for joint drill with Saudi Arabia

A picture taken on November 14, 2017 shows a Yemeni man driving a motorcycle past what remains of buildings destroyed in Saudi-led airstrikes, in the city of Ta’izz, in Yemen. (By AFP)

Rights groups have voiced outrage over Australia’s participation in a training naval drill with Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a war and a crippling blockade on Yemen.

The Australian and Saudi navies drilled in the Red Sea, not far from Yemen, on August 14.

“I think it is disturbing to hear that the ADF (Australian Defense Force) is training a navy that is involved in this blockade [against Yemen],” said Elaine Pearson, the director of New York-based Human Rights Watch’s branch in Australia.

“We know that the Saudi-led coalition has been arbitrarily delaying and diverting ships carrying lifesaving goods to Yemen, and humanitarian assistance is clearly desperately needed right now,” she added, according to Australia’s ABC News network on Wednesday.

Rebecca Barber, the humanitarian policy advisor in Melbourne for UK-based charity organization Oxfam, also voiced concern.

“Oxfam will be asking the Australian Government for more information. We are concerned by anything that could look like support to the implementation of the blockade,” Barber said. “The blockade is directly contravening a series of UN Security Council resolutions and Security Council presidential statements calling for full and unimpeded, unhindered humanitarian access.”

Tim Costello, with the rights group World Vision International, said Australia had to use its leverage by refraining from conducting joint drills with Saudi Arabia.

“Any connection, even in joint boarding party operations, taints us,” said Tim Costello, of World Vision Australia.

A malnourished Yemeni child receives treatment at a hospital in the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah, on November 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Leading a number of its vassal states, Saudi Arabia has been conducting military strikes on Yemen since March 2015 to restore a former pro-Riyadh regime.

More than 12,000 have died since the war began.

The Saudi-led coalition has also been enforcing a land, aerial, and naval blockade on Yemen. The siege has pushed around seven million people in the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

The executive director of the Australia Defense Association government organization, Neil James, also said there were questions as to why Canberra had opted to partake in the drill at a time when the Saudi navy was implementing the blockade.

‘Saudi Arabia doesn't care about Yemen’

Press TV has conducted an interview with Paul Larudee to get his opinion on the reason why Saudi Arabia is tightening its blockade on Yemen despite mounting criticism from human rights groups.

“The current Saudi administration cares very little for what happens to the people of Yemen or even the entire country. They want to use it as a tool to extend their influence throughout the Middle East… This is extremely divisive, it is extremely short-sighted but at the same time for the people of Yemen it is disastrous because the Saudis think they can all be sacrificed,” the political commentator said.

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