RNA - The £100-million ($138-million) agreement, the first of its kind, was signed between the UK government and Saudi Arabia’s KS Relief during a visit to London by the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the British PoliticsHome website, which reports on parliamentary affairs, reported on Friday.
The government has defended the controversial deal as a “new long-term partnership” to promote economic development in some of the world’s poorest countries.
However, the UK’s opposition and aid sector have reacted angrily to the deal amid growing concerns over Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in neighboring Yemen.
Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, slammed the deal as “a national disgrace,” saying Prime Minister Theresa May had said she would raise concerns over the Yemen situation in talks with bin Salman.
“Over 22 million Yemeni lives depend on permanent, full access for aid, food and fuel in Yemen. Instead, she has won no concessions and simply handed on a plate to Saudi Arabia a new humanitarian partnership and an endorsement from DfID [the Department for International Development], the world’s best aid agency,” she said.
“It will whitewash Saudi Arabia’s reputation and role in the war, and it is a national disgrace,” Osamor.
She said Prime Minister Theresa May was “auctioning off Britain’s credibility as a humanitarian power to the highest bidder.”
“A Labour source noted concerns that the aid agreement had been signed with no guarantee of a permanent lifting of the blockade of goods into Yemen or a ceasefire in the region,” the website, meanwhile, reported. “The source added that it was unclear what the £100m will be spent on, and whether the UK had attached any safeguards,” it added.
Bin Salman, who was in London from Wednesday until Friday, is regarded as the architect of Riyadh’s three-year war on Yemen. More than 13,600 people have died since the onset of the war and the impoverished country has turned into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according the UN.
The UK has been lending logistical support to the warfare. It has increased its weapons sales by around 500 percent since March 2015, The Independent reported last November. The military equipment sold to the kingdom ever since, including warplanes, precision-guided bombs, and missiles, are worth more than $6.4 billion.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia signed a preliminary deal to buy 48 Typhoon jets from the UK despite widespread protests against London’s arms sales to Riyadh.
Earlier, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Government of “colluding” in war crimes by directing the war in Yemen - claims dismissed as false by Downing Street.
Allan Hogarth, the head of policy and government affairs at Amnesty International’s British chapter, also voiced concern over the deal.
He said, “British overseas aid is important in many ways, but at a time when the UK is arming a Saudi-led military coalition that’s laying waste to homes, hospitals and schools in Yemen, this raises troubling questions.
Kevin Watkins, the chief executive of London-headquartered Save the Children, said, “It has become acceptable to operate humanitarian blockades which, if not explicitly designed to starve children and harm children, will have that inevitable consequence.”