International and Yemeni civil society responds to “extremely disappointing” UK government statement on Yemen conflict

The UK expressing ‘full support’ without qualification for the Saudi-led Coalition, mere days after bombardments killed over 100 civilians in Yemen, illustrates no meaningful regard for the protection of civilians.

On the evening of 26 January, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) published a joint statement by the governments of the UK, US, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE (collectively referred to as The Quint) following a meeting hosted by the UK government to discuss the conflict in Yemen. Beyond the FCDO website, the statement was first shared publicly by the US State Department, who tweeted a link to the statement at 22.28 UK time. 

The statement follows alarm, expressed on 25 January by Hans Grundberg (UN Special Envoy to Yemen), over the “escalating spiral of violence” that is expected to result in “a record-shattering month for civilian casualties in Yemen”

Collated below is a summary of the Quint statement and reactions from UK, international and Yemeni civil society organisations, including Oxfam GB, Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, Mwatana for Human Rights (Yemen) and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. 

The joint statement from the Quint: 

  • Condemned the Houthis’ repeated attacks against civilians within Yemen… and their continued heinous terrorist attacks against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and more recently the United Arab Emirates.” 
  • Expressed full support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and their legitimate national security concerns and called for an immediate end to attacks by the Houthis.” 
  • Acknowledged the legitimate right of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to defend themselves against terrorist attacks in accordance with International Law, and in accordance with International Humanitarian Law, including taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm”. 
  • Referred to the “dire humanitarian crisis” and “economic crisis” caused by the conflict in Yemen, and “stressed the importance of additional economic support from the international community to stabilise Yemen’s economy” 

Radhya Almatuwakel, Co-founder of Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights (Yemen): ““It is crucial to condemn violations and abuses committed by Ansar Allah [Houthis]. But there are no clean hands in the armed conflict in Yemen, and all victims have the same blood and should not be treated with different standards. So, it is equally important that the Saudi/UAE coalition are condemned and held accountable for violations and abuses they have committed. This statement ignores that responsibility.” 

 UK contact for Mwatana: Eleanor Kennedy at Crisis Action: eleanor.kennedy@crisisaction.org   

 

Oxfam GB CEO Danny Sriskandarajah said: The UK should end its ‘full support’ for Saudi Arabia and UAE stopping all arms exports and military assistance.  

As “penholder to the UN Security Council on Yemen the UK government has a responsibility to use its influence to broker peace – this statement calls into question its commitment to creating the conditions for ending this protracted crisis.

The Saudi/UAE-led coalition has carried out airstrikes on hospitals, homes and a prison in recent days killing over 100 civilians. This horrific escalation has also affected over 120,000 people accessing water and forced Oxfam to temporarily pause some essential programming. There can be no military solution to this conflict and all parties – the Saudi/UAE-led coalition, The Yemeni Government as well as the Houthis and their allies – must end the cycle of violence and begin peace talks.’    

Contact for Oxfam UK: Tanya Corbett: +44 7824 824 359/ TCorbett1@oxfam.org.uk  

 

Gwen Hines, CEO of Save the Children UK, reiterated the need to protect children at all costs: 

Our teams on the ground can no longer watch as children and the necessary infrastructure for their survival, including schools and hospitals, continues to be attacked. The latest brutal attack on Friday, which killed four children playing football, highlights the need for the UK to step up its efforts. The UK must not only use its leadership role at the UN Security Council to hold to account all parties responsible for the killing and maiming of children, but also must urgently reassess its role in selling arms to one side of the conflict“.  

Contact for Save the Children UK: R.Mangan@savethechildren.org.uk, media@savethechildren.org.uk

 

Katie Fallon, Co-Director and Parliamentary Coordinator of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT):This extremely disappointing statement cements the UK’s selective application of International Humanitarian Law to customers of UK arms exports.  

The UK expressing ‘full support’ without qualification for the Saudi-led Coalition, mere days after bombardments killed over 100 civilians in Yemen, illustrates no meaningful regard for the protection of civilians.  

The UK is not only complicit in these violations by arming the Saudi-led coalition but is now bolstering a climate of impunity for war crimes. We urge the international community to establish an international, independent, and impartial mechanism to investigate violations by all parties to the conflict in Yemen immediately.” 

Contact for CAAT: media-group@caat.org.uk   

Laura Kyrke-Smith, UK Director of the International Rescue Committee (IRC): “The war in Yemen is increasingly characterised by impunity for violations against civilians by all sides. The Quint statement fails to address this trend. The war risks dangerous deterioration with attacks on the KSA and UAE, as well as the horrific toll of Coalition bombing in Yemen, which has killed almost 100 civilians this week alone. It is vital now that the UK uses its privileged position on the UN Security Council to drive efforts to revive the peace process and hold all warring parties to account for their obligations to international law. All attacks that kill civilians should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, and those responsible held to account.

Contact for IRC: Marcus.Skinner@rescue-uk.org 

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