Norway suspends arms sales to UAE over Yemen war

Norway’s foreign ministry said that there was no evidence of Norwegian weaponry being used in Yemen, but the risk still remained

Norway has suspended exports of weapons and ammunition to the United Arab Emirates over concerns they could be used in the war in Yemen, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition formed in 2015 to fight the Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls most of northern Yemen and the capital Sanaa, in a war that has killed thousands and displaced more than three million.

While there is currently no evidence that Norwegian-made ammunition has been used in Yemen, there was a rising risk related to the UAE’s military involvement there, the ministry said.

Existing export permits had been temporarily revoked and no new licences would be issued under the current circumstances, Norway said.

In 2016, Norwegian exports of weapons and ammunition to the UAE rose to the equivalent of $9.7m from $5.1m in 2015, Statistics Norway data showed.

Last week, UN coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, called the fighting futile and absurd, an unusually direct criticism of the war.

Citing initial reports from the UN human rights office, a statement by McGoldrick said air strikes hit a crowded market in the Al Hayma sub-district of Attazziah in Taiz governorate last Tuesday, killing 54 and injuring 32.

Eight of the dead and six of the injured were children, according to the reports.

On the same day an air strike on a farm in the Attohayta district of Hodeidah governorate killed 14, and air strikes elsewhere killed a further 41 civilians and injured 43 over the past 10 days.

“These incidents prove the complete disregard for human life that all parties, including the Saudi-led coalition, continue to show in this absurd war that has only resulted in the destruction of the country and the incommensurate suffering of its people, who are being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides,” McGoldrick said.

Under international law, the warring sides must spare civilians and civilian infrastructure, he added.

The United Nations has no up-to-date estimate of the death toll in Yemen, having said in August 2016 that according to medical centres at least 10,000 people had been killed.

The UN says Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with about eight million people on the brink of famine, a cholera epidemic that has infected one million people, and economic collapse in what was already one of the Arab world’s poorest countries.