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Two-thirds of UK weapons sold to Middle East

  • Published at 12:02 am September 11th, 2016
Two-thirds of UK weapons sold to Middle East

Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world, official government figures show – with most of the weapons fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East, reports The Independent.

Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list.

A full two-thirds of UK weapons over this period were sold to Middle Eastern countries, where instability has fed into increased risk of terror threats to Britain and across the West.

Meanwhile statistics collated by UK Trade and Investment, a government body that promotes British exports abroad, show the UK has sold more arms than Russia, China, or France on average over the last 10 years. Only the United States is a bigger exporter.

But the Government has also ignored calls to stop selling weapons to repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia, which has been accused by UN bodies of potentially committing war crimes in its military operation in Yemen against Houthi rebels.

Both the European Parliament and the House of Commons International Development Committee have called for exports to the autocracy to stop, but the Government says it has not seen evidence of Saudi war crimes.

The Saudi-led coalition has bombed multiple international hospitals run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, as well as schools and wedding parties. Food factories have also been hit, as Yemen faces severe food shortages. Human rights groups say there is evidence civilian targets are being deliberately hit. The coalition has opened investigations into a number of incidents and has repeatedly claimed in statements that the coalition “is committed to full respect for international humanitarian law in the conduct of our operations in Yemen”.

A joint analysis conducted by the Independent and Campaign Against the Arms Trade found £10bn in arms licences were issued 2010-2015 to regimes designated “unfree” by Freedom House, including China, Oman, Turkmenistan and UAE.

Meanwhile £7.9bn worth of arms were sold to countries on the “human rights priority countries” list, which is maintained by the Foreign Office and includes countries judged by the FCO to have “the worst, or greatest number of, human rights violations”.

Customers on this list included Saudi Arabia, which was sold bombs, missiles, and fighter jets, Israel, which was sold drone components and targeting equipment, and Bahrain, which was sold machine guns.

Assault rifles and pistols were sent to the Maldives, while Turkmenistan was sold guns and ammunition.

The Government takes its arms export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust regimes in the world. We rigorously examine every brokering application on a pre-licensing case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.