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'Politically Significant': US Curtails Arms Sales to Saudis but Keeps Status Quo

© REUTERS / Khaled AbdullahPeople stand at the site of an airstrike which witnesses said was by Saudi-led coalition aircraft on mourners at a hall where a wake for the father of Jalal al-Roweishan, the interior minister in the Houthi-dominated Yemeni government, was being held, in Sanaa, Yemen October 8, 2016
People stand at the site of an airstrike which witnesses said was by Saudi-led coalition aircraft on mourners at a hall where a wake for the father of Jalal al-Roweishan, the interior minister in the Houthi-dominated Yemeni government, was being held, in Sanaa, Yemen October 8, 2016 - Sputnik International
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A decision by Washington to cut arms sales to Saudi Arabia is nothing but a political move, Andrew Smith, spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade, told Sputnik.

People inspect the aftermath of a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 - Sputnik International
US Halts Weapons Sales to Saudis Over Growing Body Count in Yemen Conflict
In an interview with Sputnik, Andrew Smith, spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade, a UK-based NGO, remained cautiously optimistic about Washington's decision to scrap its arms sales to Saudi Arabia. 

The interview came amid reports that the United States is halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to civilian casualties in the Kingdom’s airstrikes on Yemen.

Last week, the Obama administration expressed concerns over "flaws" in Saudi air strikes in Yemen that had often lead to civilian deaths.

In October, more than 140 people were killed in a strike on a funeral in the country. The Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen's government against the opposition Houthis was reportedly responsible for the devastating attack.

© REUTERS / Anees MahyoubA pro-government fighter walks at the site of recent battles between Houthi fighters and pro-government troops , on the second day of a 48-hour ceasefire in the southwestern city of Taiz, Yemen November 20, 2016
A pro-government fighter walks at the site of recent battles between Houthi fighters and pro-government troops , on the second day of a 48-hour ceasefire in the southwestern city of Taiz, Yemen November 20, 2016 - Sputnik International
A pro-government fighter walks at the site of recent battles between Houthi fighters and pro-government troops , on the second day of a 48-hour ceasefire in the southwestern city of Taiz, Yemen November 20, 2016

Following the incident, the White House warned Saudi Arabia that US security co-operation was "not a blank check." Now, precision-guided weapons will no longer be delivered to Saudi Arabia, according to an unnamed Pentagon official who was quoted by the BBC.

But while some sales are being reportedly scaled back, the US said it will continue to provide Saudi Arabia with intelligence focused on border security. It will also provide training for pilots involved in the Saudi-led air campaign, to prevent civilian casualties wherever possible, the official added.

Commenting on the matter, Andrew Smith said that the United States' decision to cut arms sales to Saudi Arabia is "politically significant" but that it will not add to a shift in Washington's arms sales policy on Saudi Arabia.

Much will depend on US President-elect Donald Trump's position on the matter, and his entering office may "definitely change" the "situation for the better,” according to Smith.

In any case, Washington halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia will not result in significant changes in its foreign policy on this country," he reiterated. 

A Yemeni woman affected by the country's ongoing conflict walks past food rations provided by an initiative organised by a local charity in the capital Sanaa on June 2, 2016. - Sputnik International
Yemen on Brink of Starvation as Food Supplies Run Out 'Fast'
In August, the United Nations human rights office reported that at least 60 percent of the 3,800 civilians killed since the conflict began in March 2015 had lost their lives in Saudi-led military attacks.

Last month, UN humanitarian coordinator Stephen O'Brien told UN Security Council Meeting that Yemen was "one step away from famine."

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