Tory Defence Secretary: criticising Saudi Arabia ‘not helpful’ for UK arms sales

From The Guardian: Tory defence secretary Michael Fallon urged MPs to stop criticising Saudi Arabia in the interests of securing a fighter jet deal, provoking sharp criticism from human rights and arms trade campaigners.

Michael Fallon told the defence committee: “I have to repeat, sadly, to this committee that obviously other criticism of Saudi Arabia in this parliament is not helpful and … I’ll leave it there,” he said. “But we need to do everything possible to encourage Saudi Arabia towards batch two. I believe they will commit to batch two.”

MPs have been outspoken in criticising Saudi Arabia over its intensive bombing campaign of Yemen which has resulted in heavy civilian casualties. Andrew Smith, spokesperson for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “These comments from the secretary of state for defence are disgraceful. He is calling on other parliamentarians to join him in putting arms sales ahead of human rights, democracy and international humanitarian law.”

He added that Saudi Arabia has inflicted a terrible humanitarian catastrophe on Yemen. “Fallon should be doing all he can to stop the bloodshed and end UK complicity in the suffering, not urging his colleagues to willingly ignore the abuses in order to sell even more weapons.”

Maya Foa, director of the human rights organisation Reprieve, joined the criticism: “It is chilling that our defence secretary sees fit to warn MPs not to criticise one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. Mr Fallon must urgently explain himself to MPs and the public.”

The Tory government has increased the tempo of its search for arms sales around the world, seeing this as a potentially profitable niche post-Brexit. Members of the armed forces were prominently deployed in support of British arms exports at a recent arms trade fair in London.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]