Qatar arms deal slammed amid concerns over human rights, regional rift

A member of staff works in the cockpit of an aircraft on the Eurofighter Typhoon production line at BAE systems Warton plant near Preston, northern England September 7, 2012. (Reuters)
Updated 11 December 2017
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Qatar arms deal slammed amid concerns over human rights, regional rift

LONDON: A major UK-based anti-arms-trade group has criticized the sale of 24 Typhoon fighter jets to Qatar, telling Arab News that Britain must “make sure weapons are not being sold to human-rights-abusing regimes.”

The outcry follows the announcement on Sunday that British company BAE Systems has agreed a $6.7 billion deal with the Gulf nation of Qatar to supply two dozen Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

According to Reuters, the jets are due to be delivered from late 2022, with the deal strongly supported by the British government as it secures around 5,000 manufacturing jobs in England.

Reacting to the news, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesperson Andrew Smith told Arab News: “The Qatari regime has an appalling human rights record. There is a tense political situation in the region, and these arms sales will not make it any safer. They are characteristic of the huge levels of political and military support that the UK government is prepared to offer to human rights abusers and dictatorships.”

The CAAT is of course committed to halting the sale of all arms, with Smith explaining, “We do not support arms sales to anyone, but the immediate priority has to be to make sure weapons are not being sold to human rights abusing regimes, or into war zones. The overwhelming majority of UK arms are sold to dictatorships and human rights abusers.”

The latest sale of 24 Typhoon jets to the Qatar Emiri Air Force takes the total number sold worldwide to 623, which includes 28 to Kuwait, 72 to Saudi Arabia, 143 being used by Germany, and 160 in use by the UK. Qatar is the ninth country to buy the Eurofighter Typhoon warplane.

In a statement on the Qatari deal, BAE Systems Chief Executive Charles Woodburn said: “We are delighted to begin a new chapter in the development of a long-term relationship with the State of Qatar and the Qatar Armed Forces, and we look forward to working alongside our customer as they continue to develop their military capability.”

The move follows a string of arms deals signed between Qatar and French entities last week, including 12 Rafale fighter jets.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh criticized that move.

“France should be cognizant of the fact that such a deal would only ratchet up radicalism, violence and militarization of conflicts in the region,” he told Arab News.

“Qatar is funding, arming, and training extremist groups and militias across the region. As Qatar and its ally the Iranian regime are top states sponsor of terrorism, France deal and its rapprochement with Qatar will only empower and embolden terrorist groups in the region. In addition, weapons and military equipments sold to Qatar can easily fall in the hands of terrorist groups.”
 


UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

Updated 25 June 2018
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UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

RIYADH/ADEN: The Iran-aligned Houthi movement fired missiles at the Saudi capital Riyadh late on Sunday, escalating tensions ahead of a visit by the UN envoy to Yemen this week to try to avert a military assault on the country’s main port city.
A Houthi spokesman has threatened more attacks in response to the offensive launched by a Saudi-led coalition on June 12 to seize control of Hodeidah port, long a key target, in an attempt to weaken the Houthis by cutting their main supply line.
The United Nations fears that an assault on the Red Sea port, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, could trigger a famine imperilling millions of lives.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths is due in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday for talks with ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the legitimate government’s temporary capital, government officials said.
One official said Griffiths would be there only for a few hours for talks focused on averting an assault on the port.
“There is a proposal on the table,” the foreign minister of Hadi’s government, Khaled Al-Yamani, told reporters in Riyadh.
“We would accept a peace initiative on the condition that militias leave the western coast,” he said at a joint press conference to announce a $40 million project launched by Saudi Arabia for de-mining operations in Yemen.
The Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of the port to the United Nations, sources told Reuters. A US official said Washington was urging the Saudis and Emiratis to accept the deal.
The coalition said on Monday that eight members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group had been killed in battles in the mountainous Saada region in Yemen’s northwest, which is held by the Houthis along with the capital Sanaa.
Hezbollah officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but the group has previously denied Saudi accusations that it is helping Houthi rebels.
MISSILES OVER RIYADH
Saudi air defense forces intercepted two rockets over Riyadh late on Sunday, sending debris measuring up to several meters hurtling toward residential areas.
Pieces fell near the US mission in the Saudi capital and at a school in the diplomatic quarter. Debris sparked a fire at a construction site 10 km (six miles) further south and fell on the roof of a private residence, but Saudi officials said there were no casualties.
“Our rockets will reach places that the enemy will not expect,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said. “The longer the aggression and war continue, the greater our ballistic missile capabilities.”
Coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said the alliance’s advances on Hodeidah and other fronts were pushing the Houthis to try to project strength through such attacks.
Coalition-backed forces seized Hodeidah airport last week and have been consolidating their hold in the area as more Houthi fighters, many armed with Ak-47 assault rifles, were deployed in the city and around the port.
The United Nations fears heavy fighting will worsen what is already the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, with 22 million Yemenis dependent on aid and an estimated 8.4 million believed to be on the verge of starvation.
The Arab states say they must recapture Hodeidah to deprive the Houthis of their main source of income and prevent them from smuggling in Iranian-made missiles, accusations denied by the group and Tehran.
The coalition has pledged a swift military operation to take over the airport and seaport without entering the city center, to minimize civilian casualties and maintain the flow of goods.