Aid group urges Europe to halt arms to Saudis bombing Yemen

AP News
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Posted: Feb 26, 2016 10:50 AM
Aid group urges Europe to halt arms to Saudis bombing Yemen

CAIRO (AP) — An international coalition of 100 aid and rights organizations on Friday urged Western countries to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia for its extensive air campaign against Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen.

The Control Arms Coalition released a report listing 11 countries — including France, Britain, U.S. and Germany — that it says sold arms such as drones, missiles and bombs worth $25 billion to the kingdom in 2015.

The report says the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen amounts to a "gross violations of human rights and possible war crimes."

The United Nations says the fighting in Yemen has killed more than 6,000 Yemenis since March 2015, and more than 35,000 have been wounded. The fighting pits the widely recognized Yemeni government, backed by Saudi Arabia, against Shiite Yemeni rebels known as Houthis who overran the capital and other Yemeni cities in 2014.

The group's report came ahead of a Geneva meeting of governments that signed the Arms Trade Treaty or ATT, which has the aim of "reducing the human suffering" by imposing restrictions on arms sold to countries that violate international law.

"Control Arms has called on States Parties ... to commit immediately to halting the transfer of weapons to Saudi Arabia and to its allies where these are at serious risk of being used in Yemen," the report said.

"Monday's meeting in Geneva must not fiddle while Yemen burns - governments must address this major breach of the ATT. States supplying weapons to Saudi must stop making huge profits from the suffering of Yemeni families and start applying the strict criteria set down in the ATT to all future arms transfers," it added.

The call came a day after European Union lawmakers called for an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia over airstrikes and the naval blockade imposed on Yemen, despite lobbying by the kingdom.

The resolution, which called on the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to launch an embargo initiative, assed by 449 votes to 36, with 78 abstentions.

The EU resolution is not binding on Mogherini or the EU member states, but the vote caught the attention of the Saudi government.