A new report reveals that British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had urged the UK government to continue arms sales to Saudi Arabia even after Riyadh bombed a funeral in Yemen last October that killed over 140 people and sparked global condemnation.
In a letter dated one month after the Saudi bombing, Johnson pressed Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox to continue sending weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to The Guardian newspaper.
“I am aware you have deferred a decision on four export license applications to supply the Royal Saudi Air Force with equipment which could be used in the conflict in Yemen,” Johnson wrote.
“The issue is extremely finely balanced, but I judge at present the Saudis appear committed both to improving processes and to taking action to address failures/individual incidents,” the foreign secretary wrote.
Fox delayed signing off on further weapons exports to the Saudi air force following the strike but agreed to continue arming Riyadh in the light of Johnson’s assessment.
In his reply letter to Johnson dated November 17, Fox warned that the situation in Yemen remained risky.
“I agree that this is an extremely complex situation and that the issue of clear risk is extremely finely balanced. In the light of your assessment and [redacted] recent advice I accept that we should continue, for the present, to assess export licenses for Saudi Arabia on a case-by-case basis,” Fox wrote.
“In doing so I want to be very clear with you about the risks inherent in making this decision, not just because of the grave situation in Yemen,” he added.