Four Cabinet Ministers, including Boris Johnson, have vowed to continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia in defiance of two parliamentary committees who called for Britain to cease military support for the country.
Mr Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, issued an unprecedented joint statement with Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, Priti Patel, the Development Secretary, and Liam Fox, the Trade Secretary, pledging to continue sales to Saudi Arabia despite growing concerns about the country’s intervention in Yemen.
The Government’s official response follows a joint report from the Committee on Arms Export Control, which called for the suspension of arms sales pending the results of an independent United Nations-led inquiry.
The ministers said they are “confident in its robust case-by-case assessment” and satisfied that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are compliant with the UK’s export licensing rules.
In a joint statement they said: “We continue to assess export licence applications for Saudi Arabia on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application.
“The key test for our continued arms exports is whether there is a clear risk that those exports might be used in a commission of a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
“A licence will not be issued for any country, including Saudi Arabia, if to do so would be inconsistent with any provision of the mandatory Criteria, including where we assess there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL.”
The war in Yemen has killed upwards of 6,000 people, many from air strikes, with human rights and aid groups saying hospitals, markets and other civilian targets have been hit.
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, speaking exclusively to the Telegraph, has said it was “in Britain’s interest” to continue supporting the Saudis in the battle to prevent Yemen falling into the hands of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.