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Opposition leaders urge Government to act in Yemen crisis

26 March 2019 (updated on 26 March 2019)


Emily Thornberry asked the Government to make a statement about the war in Yemen, which began four years ago today.

In a letter to the Government, the leaders of the five main Opposition parties have urged the Government to end the sale of arms to the Saudi Government. Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab states back the Hadi government, who are at war with Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Currently, a ceasefire holds, while attempts are made to resolve the conflict and ameliorate what has been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

The Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, visited the country at the start of the month, the first British minister to do so in twenty years, and warned that the ceasefire was precarious, saying;

"Patience is wearing very thin […] this ceasefire will not last if all parties don't honour the agreements they signed up to."

Addressing him via the letter, the Opposition leaders welcomed his visit to the region, but called the UK's continued sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia "morally reprehensible".

Following the letter, Shadow Home Secretary, Emily Thornberry asked the Government to make a statement on the issue.

Responding on behalf of the Government, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mark Field, said;

"...We call upon both sides, urgently, to implement the agreements made at the Stockholm peace talks and bring an end to this dire conflict. The United Kingdom is at the forefront of work towards a political solution, and there can only be a political solution in the long term to this conflict."

Emily Thornberry replied to the Minister and said;

"...This weekend we read reports in the Mail on Sunday, that members of British Special Forces have been engaged in I quote "gun battles" with the Houthi rebels in Yemen while providing support to the coalition forces."

She went on to ask,

"Does the Government still stand by its long standing statements that Britain is not a party to the conflict. Because frankly, given everything we already know, about our support for the Saudi Air Force and our supply of billions in arms to the Saudi coalition. If in addition to all that, we now discover that our forces are engaged in actual gun battles with the Houthi rebels; then if all that doesn't constitute being a party to the conflict, I really don't know what does."

Image: Press Association - Hani-Mohammed

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