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Yemen Crisis: UK 'Burying Its Head in the Sand' Over Saudi Arms Sales

© REUTERS / Mohamed al-SayaghiA man points up at a house that was damaged during an airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Faj Attan village, Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2015.
A man points up at a house that was damaged during an airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Faj Attan village, Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2015. - Sputnik International
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UK government ministers need to stop "burying their heads in the sand" over the impacts of Britain's continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, campaigners have told Sputnik, following criticism from MPs that such actions are undermining attempts to address Yemen's humanitarian crisis.

Fresh criticism has been leveled at the UK's government's decision to continue selling arms to Riyadh, following the release of a British lawmakers' report calling for an "immediate and independent" investigation into alleged breaches of international law associated with the Saudi-led conflict in Yemen.

The report, released by the parliament's International Development Committee (IDC), called for an independent investigation into the claims, and slammed the UK government's support for a Saudi-led inquiry.

More Pressure on UK Arms Sales

On the issue of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the IDC said such actions were undermining Britain's efforts to improve the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen.

"The growing evidence of indiscriminate bombing by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen… raises serious questions over the government's continued licensing of arms transfers to Saudi Arabia," the committee said.

Britain is among a number of countries on the receiving end of criticism for its continued support for Saudi Arabia throughout the conflict in Yemen.

Supporters of Shiite Huthi rebels and militiamen shout slogans raising their weapons during a rally against the Saudi-led coalition, which has been leading the war against the Iran-backed rebels, on December 17, 2015 in Sanaa. - Sputnik International
'Business as Usual' for UK-Saudi Arms Cartel Despite EU Embargo
UK military sales to Riyadh have sharply jumped since the beginning of the crisis, with close to $US4.4 billion (£3bn) worth of supplies being sold to Saudi Arabia between April and December 2015, leading to accusations that London is cynically profiting from the crisis. 

Despite Britain rejecting widespread international pleas to halt the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, the country has also earmarked $US123 million (£85m) worth of humanitarian aid to be spent in Yemen. 

Aid agencies contributing to the report told MPs there was a "paradox at the heart of the UK government's approach to Yemen."

"The government should listen to the many concerns being expressed… that the humanitarian crisis that (it) is working to address in Yemen may be being exacerbated by a flow of British arms into Saudi Arabia," committee chairman Stephen Twigg said.

Calls to Abolish 'Cynical' Policy

The conflict in Yemen has triggered increased debate in the UK about the country's close relationship with Saudi Arabia, with many calling for a review of relations between the two nations.

While British government ministers have supported a Saudi-led investigation into alleged breaches of international law, Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK's Head of Policy and Government Affairs said David Cameron's government needed to take action on the issue.

"It's never been acceptable for the UK to argue that Saudi Arabia should investigate itself over alleged war crimes in Yemen — this was never going to be an adequate response to the carnage in Yemen," he said in a statement sent to Sputnik.

"Thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed in devastating Saudi-led coalition airstrikes and it's long overdue for the UK to end its cynical policy of selling vast quantities of arms to Saudi Arabia.

"Ministers now need to stop burying their heads in the sand and immediately suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending the outcome of both a UN inquiry into the bloody conflict in Yemen and the UK's own review of its arms exports."

More than 6,000 people have been killed in Yemen since March 2015, with more than half of those estimated to be civilians.

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