Philip Hammond wants more UK trade with Saudi Arabia, despite calling for a “proper investigation” into claims of breaches of international humanitarian law by the Middle East country in Yemen.
Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight this evening, the Foreign Secretary admitted some UK-made weapons are being used by the Saudi’s in its intervention in the ongoing Yemeni civil war.
Last month, a coalition of countries led by the Netherlands tried to get the United Nations to conduct an investigation into allegations of war crimes by Saudi Arabia and groups it is backing in the conflict.
The plan was dropped after opposition from Saudi Arabia and its allies.
In an interview with Newsnight, Mr Hammond was asked if he would like to see the current £5.4billion of weapons trade with Saudi Arabia increase.
He replied: “We’d always like to do more business, more British exports, more British jobs and in this case very high end engineering jobs protected and created by our diplomacy abroad.”
When quizzed about how those weapons were being used, Mr Hammond said: “I know that some of them are being used in Yemen, that doesn’t fall foul of the export licensing criteria.
“It would be hypocritical to think we could have a large defence industry exporting weapons systems and that they never get used.
“What matters is they are used legally in compliance with international humanitarian law and we monitor that very carefully.”
He added: “Those weapons are being used in Yemen, the important thing is they are being used legally in an international armed conflict. There have been accusations of breaches of international humanitarian law. We regularly intervene with the Saudi’s to encourage them to be transparent with us.”
Mr Hammond said he raised concerns over the Saudi’s actions in Yemen with the country’s leaders last month, and that: “The Saudi’s deny there has been any breaches of international humanitarian law.
“Obviously that denial alone is not enough, we need to see proper investigations, we need to work with the Saudi’s to establish that international humanitarian law has been complied with.
“We have an export licensing system that responds if we find that’s it not. If we then find we cannot licence additional shipments of weapons.”
Mr Hammond also discussed the UK’s ongoing strategy against Isil, and admitted that airstrikes against the group would be extended from Iraq into Syria “as soon as we are confident we can win a vote in the House of Commons.”