The conflict in Yemen is now in its fourth year. Houthi rebels took the capital Sana’a by force in 2014 and displaced the legitimate Government of Yemen, as recognised by the UN Security Council. Coalition action is designed to facilitate the restoration of effective governance.
The Houthis have consistently failed to adhere to UN Security Council Resolutions, including by launching missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and shipping in the Bab al-Mandab strait. Saudi Arabia continues to be the subject of regular missile attacks from the Houthis in Yemen. Since November 2017, Riyadh has been targeted on at least six occasions. In addition, the Houthis continue to launch frequent rocket attacks against the southern cities of Jizan, Najran and Khamis Mushayt. The Houthis have stated their intention to continue these attacks against Saudi Arabia and to launch additional attacks against neighbouring countries, seriously endangering regional security. The UK supports the legitimate right of Saudi Arabia to respond to this critical threat. The UK has a national interest in stopping Houthi missile attacks that serve only to escalate the conflict and worsen the humanitarian situation.
The United Kingdom remains committed to supporting the legitimate security needs of Saudi Arabia and guarding against the danger of regional escalation. The UK has now agreed to work with the Saudis to mitigate the threat from these missiles. This will involve UK personnel providing information, advice and assistance limited to this particular objective. To be clear, the UK is not a member of the Saudi-Led Coalition. We do not have any role in setting Coalition policy, or in executing air strikes. All UK military personnel in Saudi Arabia remain under UK command and control.
The UK’s partnership with Saudi Arabia also demands that we provide them with honest advice. We regularly remind the Saudi Government, and other members of the military Coalition, of the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law. I did so most recently with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on 17 May. The UK Government takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. All export license applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application. The Criteria state that the Government will not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used in a commission of a serious violation of IHL.
This war has gone on for too long. The UK continues to lead diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the conflict. We are committed to supporting the work of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen. We have been clear that there can be no military solution. We continue to encourage all parties to return to negotiations and engage in the UN-led political process in good faith, to work towards a political settlement.
Meanwhile, the people of Yemen continue to suffer. As well as pressing hard for a comprehensive political solution, we are addressing the humanitarian crisis. This is a key priority for the UK. On 3 April, we pledged an additional £170 million to Yemen to cover the financial year 2018/2019. This makes the UK the fourth largest humanitarian donor to Yemen. UK funding will meet the immediate food needs of 2.5 million Yemenis, and comes on top of over £400 million in bilateral support since the conflict began in 2015.
Yemen is a priority for the Government. The solution remains political, not military. As the UN Special Envoy said to the Security Council on 17 April there is a risk that military escalation by all sides may undermine the prospects for peace. The legitimate national security interests of Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries must be preserved. At the same time there is a need for all sides to get behind the UN Special Envoy’s plans for stopping the conflict and reaching a comprehensive political settlement. This is the best way to protect the people of Yemen and address their needs. We intend that our additional support to Saudi Arabia will help to provide enough reassurance regarding their national security to enable them to focus their efforts on supporting a political solution.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords