UK must use ‘special relationship’ to halt US arms sales to Saudi Arabia


Plaid Cymru has urged the UK Government to use its so-called ‘special relationship’ with the new Trump administration to put an end to US sales of illegal cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

In a letter, dated 21st December 2016, from Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon to Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary leader, Hywel Williams, the Defence Secretary confirms that the Saudi Coalition has used US-manufactured ‘CBU-105’ cluster munitions. He goes on to say that details of the holding of cluster munitions and their origin “are a matter for the Government of Saudi Arabia and their suppliers”.

During an urgent question in the House of Commons today (Thursday 26th January), Plaid Cymru MP, Liz Saville Roberts, asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Tobias Ellwood, what he will do to persuade his new American counterparts to stop supplying cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia.

The Minister’s response was that he “work[s] quite hard to try and, not only get Saudi Arabia but all the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nations to show a willingness to join others around the world in signing the convention on cluster munitions. The Americans obviously are not signatories to this but I do hope that Saudi Arabia, which is considering this, will recognise the importance of it. I will say that Rex Tillerson, the new [American] Secretary of State, lived in Yemen for three years – he knows the area very well indeed, and he’ll be meeting with the Secretary of State, Boris Johnson, in the very near future.”

Commenting, Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Liz Saville Roberts, said:

“Innocent civilians are being killed in Yemen by munitions that are widely prohibited for very good reason, but are being supplied by a country the UK Government considers to be its closest ally.

“It is intensely hypocritical of Westminster to talk of the pain and suffering by civilians across the Middle East when it considers its allies’ contribution to such suffering “a matter for the Government of Saudi Arabia and their suppliers”.

“The Defence Secretary has confirmed that cluster munitions, which pose a serious risk to civilians, have been supplied to the Saudi coalition and used in the current conflict. The UK Government has a duty to use its ‘special relationship’ with the US to urge them to halt the sales of these abhorrent weapons.

“Westminster cannot expect to police other nations around the world, telling them to sign up to conventions when Westminster’s closest ally itself refuses to do so.

“The Foreign Secretary must use his meeting with the American Secretary of State to urge the Americans to sign up to the convention on cluster munitions and put an immediate stop on sales of cluster munitions.”

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