EU lawmakers seek checks on arms exports fuelling Yemen conflict

Abduljabbar Zeyad, AFP | The Red Sea port of Hodeida, a key lifeline for Yemen's stricken population, has been at the heart of fierce fighting in recent months.

Tougher checks on European Union arms exports are needed and sanctions should be imposed on those countries that flout the bloc's rules, the European Parliament said on Wednesday.


EU lawmakers said European arms were stoking the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi Arabia-led coalition is battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia by EU states undermined the European arms control effort, they said.

"In Yemen, European weapons are fundamentally responsible for the war taking place," said German EU lawmaker Sabine Losing, who is leading efforts to hold EU governments to account.

The European Parliament's call to strengthen checks is non-binding but it is the second time in less than a month that EU lawmakers have passed a resolution urging limits on arms sales following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

>> Read more: US, UK, France arms sales to Saudi coalition ‘devastating’ Yemeni lives

The EU is the second largest arms supplier in the world -- exporting more than a quarter of all global arms -- after the United States, according to the EU's annual report on weapons exports.

That has pitted its values of peace and support for human rights against business interests.

The European Union's so-called Common Position on arms exports lists eight criteria governments must apply when taking a decision on an arms export license. Sales to Saudi Arabia violated six out of the eight, lawmakers said.

"The Common Position on arms exports must be implemented effectively. That includes, among others, a sanctions mechanism," Losing said.

French President Emmanuel Macron's government has come under fire from rights groups and opposition lawmakers over sales of French arms to Saudi Arabia.

>> Read more: France's Macron evades questions on halting Saudi arms sales

Paris has sought to increase its diplomatic weight in the Middle East through the sale of naval vessels, tanks, artillery and munitions to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday that the government adhered to strict rules that "stop us selling weapons that might impact civilians".

Hodeida offensive ‘suspended’

The push for tougher checks on arms exports comes amid reports Yemen’s Saudi-backed loyalist forces have suspended their offensive on the rebel-held port city of Hodeida.

Three military officials reached by telephone told AFP the pro-government forces had been "ordered" to halt their offensive against Houthi rebels in the Red Sea city until further notice, but operations would resume if they came under attack.

This follows diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Hodeida, whose Red Sea port serves as a key lifeline for the impoverished country.

The United Arab Emirates, a leading member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, said Wednesday it supports a UN plan for peace talks to be held in Sweden by the year's end.

After failed peace talks in September, the UN is pushing to host a new round of negotiations between the government, backed by the coalition, and the Iran-linked Houthi rebels by the end of the year.

The United States, Britain and France have also called for an end to nearly four years of conflict in Yemen, particularly in Hodeida.

The Hodeida campaign has sparked fears of a new humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where 14 million people face the risk of starvation.


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