EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia "necessary"

EU Parliament wants Saudi Arabia to stop bombing civilians.

Following weeks of negotiations over an amendment calling for an EU-wide arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, a historical vote was confirmed today with the Parliament approving a call for an EU-wide arms embargo against Saudi Arabia until alleged breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen have been fully investigated. Alyn Smith MEP, member of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, has led efforts on this on behalf of his group.

The European Parliament's call is unprecedented and 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, yet NGOs have documents 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 way in March 2015.

Commenting on the call for an arms embargo, Alyn Smith said:

"I have a close association with Saudi Arabia. I grew up there and I am sensitive to the realities of the Saudis and appreciate that the Saudis have concerns in their neighbourhood. But our duty is to the civilians in Yemen, and given widespread I believe very valid concerns over the conduct of the war by Saudi forces, our call for an EU-wide arms embargo is proportionate and necessary. 

"The Saudis say they are investigating what they call incidents and I welcome that scrutiny, but that is not enough – humanitarian NGOs have asked for an independent inquiry that meets international law standards.

"There is a clear case to answer and, as a lawyer by profession, I believe EU-made weapons systems are being exported to Saudi in breach of international and EU law given concerns over their use in Yemen. If we are true to our values we should request from the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, as I did last month in a letter, to investigate whether an EU arms embargo is necessary.  I am delighted a majority of MEPs share that view.

"This call is parallel to efforts in the UK raised by my SNP colleagues in Westminster, in coordination with the campaign of the Coalition Against Arms Trade, and we are coordinating this across Europe. I believe the legal standards EU Member States have signed up to in the EU Position on Arms Exports are being breached.

"It is worth also remembering that this is a call for an arms embargo, not an arms embargo, and it is the actions of the Saudi-led coalition that have brought us here. We and NGOs want more scrutiny. The humanitarian situation is getting worse, not better. That message is politically significant in Riyad, Saudi Arabia must show a lot more consideration for civilian lives in Yemen."