MEPs: Arms embargo against Saudi Arabia over airstrikes in Yemen


Two kids inspect a house destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike, at a neighborhood in Sana'ad in Sana'a, Yemen, 25 February 2016. According to reports, the Saudi-led coalition stepped up its airstrikes on Sana'a, killing at least one man and wounding two children.

Saudi Arabia together with her allies in the Middle East and North Africa, is actively involved in Yemen by bombing areas which under the control of the Shia Yemeni rebels, known as the Houthis.

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The EU must impose an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia to pressure the oil-rich country to stop the shelling of civilians in Yemen, the MEPs voted on Thursday.

The European Parliament urged the EU High Commissioner, Federica Mogherini, “to launch an initiative aimed at imposing an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia” in a resolution which was approved by 449 votes to 36, with 78 abstentions.


Involvement of Saudi Arabia in Yemen

Saudi Arabia, with the support of her allies in the Middle East and North Africa, commits numerous airstrikes in Yemen, targeting areas controlled by the Shia Yemeni rebels known as the Houthis.

The rebels, who is believed to be backed by Iran, together with some of Yemen’s security forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh overthrew the US and Saudi Arabia supported Yemeni government and since then the Arab coalition, helps the government led by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to return to power.

However, since the involvement of the Arab coalition, things got even worse for the citizens of the country. At least 7.6 million people are now seriously “food insecure” in Yemen. Moreover, on 5 January, the UN reported that civilian casualties in Yemen topped 8,100, with nearly 2,800 of them killed, amid Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, shelling by Houthi groups and other clashes.


Stop shelling civilians in Yemen

The MEPs called today all the fighting sides in Yemen, to stop shelling civilians in Yemen. The European Parliament’s resolutions called for a ceasefire that halts attacks against civilians in the war-torn country.

The MEPs called on all parties in Yemen’s civil war and their foreign backers to engage in a new round of peace negotiations and seek a political settlement.

The resolution acknowledged that Saudi Arabia and Iran are instrumental in resolving the crisis in Yemen, but it also expresses grave concern “at the airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition and the naval blockade it has imposed on Yemen, which have led to thousands of deaths, [and] have further destabilised Yemen.”

Therefore the MEPs asked from Mogherini, “to launch an initiative aimed at imposing an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.”

Many EU countries, including the UK and France arm Saudi Arabia, which is one of the world’s biggest arms importer.

The MEPs stressed that only a political, inclusive and negotiated solution to the conflict can restore peace and preserve unity in Yemen.


S&D welcomes the resolution

The EP’s initiative was called by the Socialist and Democrat Group (S&D) in the European Parliament and the negotiations on the text were chaired by its Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Richard Howitt MEP, a British Labor MP, who is the lead proposer of the amendment in favor of the arms embargo.

According to an S&D statement before the vote, the European Parliament resolution is seeking to bring greater world attention to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, acknowledging that the Saudi-led coalition was legally invited to undertake military action but arguing that “serious allegations of human rights abuse’ now require the European Union to end arms supplies, to uphold its own EU Code of Conduct on Arms Sales (legally titled the ‘Common Position’).”

Richard Howitt MEP (S & D, UK) said: “This is a clear humanitarian appeal to end the bloodshed in Yemen, and call on Saudi Arabia to pursue a political rather than a military solution to the conflict.

Europe and the world must not ignore the unacceptable death toll in Yemen, and the European Parliament is voting today that the allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen are now so serious that continuing arms sales would constitute a breach of the EU’s own legally-agreed Code of Conduct.

Europe wants Saudi Arabia to be a partner in combined international efforts to solve the conflicts in Yemen and in Syria, but this resolution says there is a humanitarian imperative for Europe to act on this now to offer hope of an end to the crisis for the Yemeni people,” the MEP said.


Saudi Arabia airstrikes in Yemen

In January, British daily, The Guardian, reported that a UN report found out that the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen performs “widespread and systematic” attack on civilians. The Guardian, obtained the 51-page UN report conducted by a panel of experts on Yemen, which was sent to the UN Security Council.

According to Guardian, in one of the key findings, the report says: “The panel documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.” The report added that: “The panel documented 119 coalition sorties relating to violations of international humanitarian law.”

In 2015,  Dutch diplomats in the UN, once asked for an independent war crimes inquiry in Yemen. However, the inquiry was blocked by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries such as Bahrain and Qatar which claimed that a war crimes investigation must be launched by the Yemeni government.

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