The EU parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly called for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia over its bombing of Yemen which has "led to thousands of deaths" and "further destabilized" the war-torn country.
"This is a clear humanitarian appeal to end the bloodshed in Yemen, and call on Saudi Arabia to pursue a political rather than a military solution to the conflict," stated Richard Howitt, who proposed the motion.
Despite lobbying by Saudi Arabia, the non-binding resolution passed 449 to 36, with 78 abstentions. "The vote does not compel EU member states to act but it does increase pressure on Riyadh, in the wake of criticism from the UN and growing international alarm over civilian casualties in Yemen," the Guardian reports.
Saudi Arabia has been waging an aerial assault on Yemen since March 2015 with the backing of the United States. United Nations humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien told the U.N. Security Council earlier this month that the campaign has resulted in at least 35,000 casualties and over 6,000 deaths. Yemen is experiencing a"humanitarian catastrophe," he warned, and added, "The United Nations has confirmed that at least 2,997 of those killed and 5,659 of those injured are civilians."
"Europe and the world must not ignore the unacceptable death toll in Yemen, and the European Parliament is voting today that the allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen are now so serious that continuing arms sales would constitute a breach of the EU's own legally-agreed Code of Conduct," Howitt added.
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The call for the arms embargo is "unprecedented," said Greens/EFA foreign affairs spokesperson Alyn Smith, who led efforts to get the amendment passed. "Saudi Arabia is a top arms client of the UK and France, and there is evidence that these weapons have been used in gross violations of international law in Yemen," he added.
The EU vote follows a campaign by led by Avaaz which gathered roughly 750,000 signatures calling for such an embargo. Alex Wilks, campaign director at the group, said, "European countries and arms dealers have been making billions selling bombs to Saudi Arabia to be dropped on babies and children in Yemen. The UN has already said it's unacceptable, and now the EU must do the same."
A report released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) also found that Saudi Arabia increased its arms imports 275 percent between 2011 and 2015, since the previous 5-year period, and is the United Kingdom's top arms recipient.