Daily Management Review

Resolution on Embargo on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Passed in Voting in EU Parliament


Resolution on Embargo on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Passed in Voting in EU Parliament
As a mark of protest against Saudi Arabias heavy bombing campaign in Yemen, members of European Parliament have voted for a European Union-wide arms embargo against the gulf country.
Citing the “disastrous humanitarian situation” as a result of “Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen”, the European parliament voted by a large majority for an EU-wide ban on arms sales to the kingdom.
The voting and the decision taken by the EU is in the wake of criticism from the UN and growing international alarm over civilian casualties in Yemen even though the vote does not compel EU member states to act but it does increase pressure on Riyadh.
The British government has supplied export licences for up to £3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the last year and the resolution puts pressure on the British government to rethink its policy. Through the deployment of UK military personnel in Saudi Arabia, the UK has been accused of direct involvement in the bombing campaign.
With the aim of lending support to the Yemeni president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was under threat from Houthi forces aligned with Iran, Saudi Arabia had began bombing in Yemen last March.
“This is a clear humanitarian appeal to end the bloodshed in Yemen, and call on Saudi Arabia to pursue a political rather than a military solution to the conflict,” Richard Howitt, the Labour MEP who drafted the key amendment, said.
The British government was also called upon to stop selling weapons to Riyadh by Howitt who is also Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman in Europe.
“The UK is one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia and needs to heed this call, which has been overwhelmingly supported across the political spectrum and by a vast citizen campaign,” he said. 
The UK and other EU member states, including France, Spain and Germany were named and criticized in an earlier draft of the resolution. However that resolution has been dropped.  
In violation of EU rules on arms control, “some EU member states” had continued to authorise transfers of weapons to Saudi Arabia since the violence started, the final version said.
Opposition from the leadership of the two main centre-right groups, including Britain’s Conservatives were overcome by a diverse coalition of Socialists, Liberals, Greens, Leftists and Eurosceptics and the motion was passed by 359 votes to 212. A larger number of MEPs supported a separate resolution calling for a ceasefire in Yemen.
Weapons were promised not to be sold by EU members states to countries where they might be used “to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law” and which undermine regional peace and stability according to a 2008 code of conduct.
Despite a heavy lobbying campaign from the Gulf state in Brussels the “intensification of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition” was criticized in the final resolution on arms control.
This campaign against the resolution showed its significance, said Howitt, who has had two meetings with Saudi government officials in recent weeks.

“[The Saudis] don’t like it, they are calling it sanctions,” he said. “It is not sanctions, it is an obligation not to sell arms,” he said.