To the surprise of no-one, Saudi Arabia and Britain signed a huge new arms deal on Friday. It came despite repeated calls for the UK to halt arms sales in light of massive civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
British firm BAE Systems will sell 48 Typhoon fighter jets to the Saudis after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Prime Minister Theresa May for talks. A preliminary deal has been signed, according to reports, for the Kingdom to buy from the UK, as part of a multi-billion-pound deal, RT reported.
Shares in BAE Systems shot up 2 percent after the announcement. BAE confirmed the news, saying in a statement “This is a positive step towards agreeing a contract for our valued partner. We are committed to supporting the kingdom as it modernises the Saudi Armed Forces and develops key industrial capabilities critical to the delivery of Vision 2030.”
However, civil and human rights campaigners are furious. The UK has already licensed £4.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombardment of neighboring Yemen began three years ago.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said “This shameful deal will be celebrated in the palaces of Riyadh and by the arms companies who will profit from it, but it will mean even greater destruction for the people of Yemen,” adding that “For decades now, successive UK governments have enjoyed a toxic and damaging relationship with the Saudi regime. By rolling out the red carpet for the Crown Prince, Theresa May has shown how low she will sink to maintain it.”
“Yemen has endured three years of bombardment and one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. UK arms companies have profited every step of the way. If May really cares for the rights of people being repressed in Saudi Arabia, or bombed in Yemen, then she must stop arming and supporting the brutal Saudi dictatorship,” he stated.
Both May and bin Salman said the relationship between the allies is vital.
May stressed in the Commons on Wednesday intelligence sharing between the two has “saved hundreds of lives.”
The deal is expected to be announced by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and the Crown Prince later on Friday.