Prime Minister David Cameron has defended the UK's relationship with Saudi Arabia and the assistance provided by Downing Street to Riyadh's military campaign in Yemen, in which thousands of civilians have died. Cameron went on to claim that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom has a good deradicalisation programme and seemingly justified the UK's relationship with Saudi Arabia, saying that it is "important for our own security" and called it "opponents of Daesh [Isis] and the extremism [they spread]."
Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's richest state, has come under fierce criticism for its bombardment of the Arab world's poorest country, Yemen. Nearly 6,000 people have died since March 2015, when Saudi Arabia intervened alongside a coalition of other Arab states. Since Cameron assumed office in 2010, the Conservative government has presided over the sale of more than £5.6bn ($7.99bn) in arms, fighter jets and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia, according to figures released earlier this month.
Discussing Britain's role in Yemen on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Cameron said: "When it comes to Yemen, we support the legitimate government of Yemen and work with others in order to try and help that country have the stability that it needs.
"In terms of our arms exports, I think we have some of the most stringent controls anywhere in the world and I'll always make sure they're properly operated," Cameron added. "We're trying to do everything we can to make sure that the work done by Saudi Arabia is properly targeted and it's right that we should do that.
"We're working with them and others on behalf of the legitimate government on Yemen," the prime minister said. Earlier this month, Germany said that it is reviewing all future arms exports to Saudi Arabia over grave human rights concerns.
Human rights groups have expressed alarm at the situation in Yemen, with unlawful killings and enforced disappearances rife. Patients have also died following bombardments of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) facilities. According to an October 2015 poll, 62% of adults in the UK oppose arms sales to the Saudi regime, while only 16% support the policy.
Speaking to IBTimes UK last week, Adam Coogle, Middle East Researcher at Human Rights Watch said: "In terms of the UK relationship [with Saudi Arabia], one of things we need to point to is whether or not the UK is selling Saudi Arabia any weapons that are being used to commit war crimes in Yemen." He added: "The UK government needs to seriously reconsider its role."
The UK currently sells arms to 24 out of 27 countries of concern, as identified in an FCO report. These include Yemen, North Korea and Russia.