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Volume 614: debated on Monday 5 September 2016

This Government continue to believe that the best way to achieve stability in Yemen is through a political solution. The UK’s priority is to support the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, in facilitating a credible peace process in Yemen. I deeply regret the failure of the parties to reach an agreement at the UN-led peace talks in Kuwait, and I continue to urge them to find the compromises that will end the current conflict.

There has been a sustained international effort in support of the UN throughout and the UK continues to play an active role. In July I hosted a meeting in London to discuss Yemen with the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the US Secretary of State where we collectively reiterated our strong support for the role of the UN in mediating a lasting political solution to the crisis. We affirmed that a successful resolution should include arrangements that would require the withdrawal of armed groups from the capital and other areas, and a political agreement that would allow for the resumption of a peaceful, inclusive political transition. In August, Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, represented me in Saudi Arabia for talks with the US Secretary of State, GCC Foreign Ministers and the UN Special Envoy. The discussions focused on finding a way to end the political deadlock in Yemen, humanitarian assistance and ways to support Yemen’s precarious economy.

We will continue to support the peace process through our diplomatic efforts. The UK will host a discussion on Yemen at the UN General Assembly later this month with key international partners. In parallel, we continue to press for military restraint on all sides and call for a renewed commitment to a cessation of hostilities.

We are aware of reports of alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by parties to the conflict and take these very seriously. We regularly raise the importance of compliance with IHL with the Saudi Arabian Government and other members of the Saudi-Arabian led military coalition. I raised the issue of IHL compliance with my Saudi counterpart, Foreign Minister Al Jubeir on 22 August. It is important that the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in the first instance conducts thorough and conclusive investigations into incidents where it is alleged that IHL has been violated. They have the best insight into their own military procedures and will be able to conduct the most thorough and conclusive investigations. It will also allow the coalition forces to understand what went wrong and apply the lessons learnt in the best possible way. This is the standard we set ourselves and our allies.

In this respect, Saudi Arabia announced more detail of how incidents of concern involving coalition forces are investigated on 31 January. The Saudi Arabian-led Coalition Joint Investigations Assessment Team publicly announced the outcome of eight investigations on 4 August.

The UK Government take their arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. All export licence 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 key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to IHL is whether there is a clear risk that those weapons might be used in a commission of a serious violation of IHL. Having regard to all the information available to us, we assess that this test has not been met.