Friday 5 February 2021 / 4:34 PM Emily Thornberry / International Trade

Truss urged to follow Biden’s lead on Yemen arms exports

Labour has demanded that the government follow President Biden’s lead and suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in the war in Yemen. The President announced the move last night at the same time as supporting UN-led initiatives to impose a ceasefire in Yemen, open humanitarian corridors, and restore peace talks.

Shadow International Trade Secretary, Emily Thornberry, has written to her counterpart, Liz Truss, urging her to follow suit, saying:

“You can personally play a vital and immediate part in this process by suspending the export of arms for use in the conflict. Even if we disagree fundamentally over whether you should already have done so in the context of international humanitarian law, surely we can both agree now is the right time to do so in the interests of securing peace in Yemen.

“The UK cannot play its proper role as penholder in the UN-led peace initiative that President Biden has urged if we are simultaneously continuing to sell arms to one side in the conflict. We must instead demonstrate that we stand firmly alongside the President in demanding an end to this war, and are ready to take the same actions as him to achieve it.”


Full text of the letter:

Dear Liz,

I am writing following President Biden’s statement last night announcing the suspension of all US arms sales for use in the war in Yemen, and expressing his support for a UN-led initiative to impose a ceasefire on all sides, open humanitarian corridors, and restore peace talks.

As you know, these are all familiar demands from the debates we have had in our own Parliament over the last five years, both in the context of the UK’s continuing arms exports to the Saudi-led coalition, and the government’s shamefully neglected duties as penholder on Yemen at the UN Security Council.

However, there is no value in relitigating those debates at this point. What matters now is whether the UK will support President Biden’s initiative, take immediate action in kind, and thereby help sustain the momentum required to end this brutal conflict, bring all parties back to the negotiating table, and stop the suffering of the Yemeni people.

You can personally play a vital and immediate part in this process by suspending the export of arms for use in the conflict. Even if we disagree fundamentally over whether you should already have done so in the context of international humanitarian law, surely we can both agree now is the right time to do so in the interests of securing peace in Yemen.

Apart from anything else, the UK cannot play its proper role as penholder in the UN-led peace initiative that President Biden has urged if we are simultaneously continuing to sell arms to one side in the conflict. We must instead demonstrate that we stand firmly alongside the President in demanding an end to this war, and are ready to take the same actions as him to achieve it.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt. Hon Emily Thornberry MP
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade