BAE Systems has defended its deals with Saudi Arabia who is currently at war with Yemen. At the company's annual general meeting held on 4 May, Sir Roger Carr, chief executive at the British defence company was questioned by activists regarding providing weapons to a country like Saudi Arabia which is often accused of violating human rights.
Peace activists attended the meeting and asked the moral justification behind supplying weapons to the Arab kingdom, to which Carr said that BAE's weapons were sold to "encourage peace". He added that the justification was "in our belief that what we are doing is in the interests of peace for the world, rather than simply as aggressors. We maintain peace by having the ability to make war and that has stood the test of time".
"We are not here to judge the way that other governments work, we are here to do a job under the rules and regulations we are given", he said in response to one of the questions put forth by the activists. The chief executive explained that Saudi Arabia was an appropriate customer for BAE's weapons and services, considering it were an ally to Britain, according to the Guardian.
He repeatedly said that BAE's dealings with the Middle Eastern country were in accordance with the UK government's rules and regulations. "We will stop doing it when they tell us to stop doing it," Carr added.
When one of the attendee's opined that peace could be achieved only via negotiations, Carr said, "There is, however, in the world in which we all live, the principle of speaking softly but carrying a big stick – and that very often encourages people to negotiate. We try and provide our people, our government, our allies with the very best weapons, the very best sticks they can have, to encourage peace."
The activists were affiliated to the UK-based NGO Campaign Against the Arms Trade. They had purchased BAE shares to get entry to the AGM. Their questions lasted for more than an hour, after which Carr asked other shareholders to come forward and change the topic of discussion.