Boris Johnson urged UK to continue Saudi arms sales after funeral bombing

Boris Johnson pressed Liam Fox to continue exports of weapons to Saudi Arabia after the bombing of a funeral in Yemen last October that killed more than 140 people and was condemned by UN monitors.

Correspondence between the ministers shows that a month after the strike, Johnson, the foreign secretary, wrote: “I am aware you have deferred a decision on four export licence applications to supply the Royal Saudi Air Force with equipment which could be used in the conflict in Yemen.”

In the letter dated 8 November, Johnson advised the trade secretary it was right to proceed with the arms sales. “The issue is extremely finely balanced, but I judge at present that the Saudis appear committed both to improving processes and to taking action to address failures/individual incidents,” he said.

A letter from Boris Johnson to Liam Fox abut Saudi Arabia export licensing.

A letter from Boris Johnson to Liam Fox abut Saudi Arabia export licensing. Photograph: Department for International Trade

The foreign secretary added that the Saudis had given the UK commitments in the aftermath of the airstrike on the funeral in Sana’a that meant “the ‘clear risk’ threshold for refusal … has not yet been reached”.

Fox then recommended that the licences be approved in the light of the assessment provided by the foreign secretary, but in his reply dated 17 November added that the situation remained risky and that he “must insist” on regular updates on the situation in Yemen.

The trade secretary wrote to Johnson: “I agree that this is an…

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