The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France © Christian Hartmann / Reuters
The EU parliament “condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing violence in Yemen and all attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, which constitute war crimes,” the resolution passed on Thursday says. It goes on to say that “dozens of Saudi-led airstrikes have been blamed for indiscriminately killing and wounding civilians in violation of the laws of war, including through the use of internationally banned cluster munitions.”
The document particularly says that the European lawmakers “deplore” the blockade of Yemen established by the Saudi-led coalition and specifically condemns “the indiscriminate coalition-led airstrikes leading to civilian casualties, including children, and destruction of civilian and medical infrastructure.” It adds that they equally condemn the actions of the Houthi rebels resulting in civilian casualties, including the missile attacks on the Saudi cities.
The MEPs then renewed their call on the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, to launch “an initiative to impose an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia” in the view of the serious allegations of it committing war crimes in Yemen. The motion, which is, however, non-binding, was adopted by a vast majority as 539 MEPs supported it while only 13 of them voted against and 81 abstained.
The resolution also calls on Mogherini to “urgently propose an integrated EU strategy for Yemen” as well as urged all parties to the conflict to “urgently agree on a cessation of hostilities”and to return to peace negotiations.It then goes on to slam the EU member states for selling arms to the Saudis in spite of numerous allegations of war crimes committed by the coalition.
“EU Member States have continued to authorize transfers of arms to Saudi Arabia since the escalation of the conflict, in a violation of Council Common Position … on arms export control,” the document says. It then goes on to say that an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia would “effectively promote compliance” of the member states with the relevant EU guidelines and eventually with the international humanitarian law.
This is not the first time the EU parliament had called for an arms embargo against the Saudis. A similar appeal to the EU authorities was included into another its resolution on the situation in Yemen adopted in February 2016.
Meanwhile, some EU states continue to actively supply the Saudis with weapons and military equipment despite the Kindgom’s involvement in the war in Yemen. In mid-November, the German government revealed that the total value of its arms sales to Saudi Arabia has grown fivefold in the third quarter of 2017 comparison to the same period of the previous year.
While Germany supplies the Kingdom with military trucks and patrol boats, according to the disclosed documents, the UK is selling the Saudis various munitions, including bombs and missiles. And the UK arms sales to the Saudis also jumped by almost 500 percent, a November report said.
In September, an NGO said that the UK sold the Saudis £6 billion ($8 billion) worth of weapons since the war in Yemen began. It was also recently revealed that up to 50 British military personnel were teaching battlefield skills to Saudi officers engaged in the Yemeni conflict.
However, the oil-rich Kingdom enjoys support not only of its European partners. In late November, it was reported that the Saudis were purchasing $ 7 billion worth of precision arms from the US manufacturers, which is almost equal to the total worth of the British arms sales to the Saudi Arabia over the entire period of the Yemeni conflict. The purchase came as part of the mammoth $110-billion deal earlier brokered by the US President Donald Trump during his visit to Riyadh.
Since 2015, the Sunni monarchy has been waging a war against Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, which pushed one of the Arab world’s poorest countries to the brink of famine and left some 4,800 Yemenis killed, according to UN that says most of the civilian casualties were caused by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, though Riyadh consistently denied the reports.
According to the UN, some 20.7 million people in Yemen are currently in need of humanitarian assistance while a cholera outbreack, which is considered to be one of the worst in the world, affected more than 900,000 people there. At the same time, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also called the humanitarian situation in Yemen the “largest food-security emergency in the world.”