It is a pleasure to take part in this debate following our earlier discussions in Westminster Hall. As Keith Vaz said, I was born in Aden, and I have always taken a close interest in the affairs of the middle east. It is regrettable that the crisis in Yemen has been carrying on in different ways and far from the attention of the rest of the world, and even since our last debate, the situation has deteriorated and the civil war in the country has carried on into yet another year. I am hopeful that through diplomatic means the conflict can be resolved, but that depends on the willingness of external powers to make that happen, just as much as it does on the willingness of the two sides in Yemen.
This current civil war is the latest in a series of conflicts that reach back centuries and are one strand of the wider conflict between Sunni and Shi’a in the Muslim world. Whatever our aims to restore peace, we must understand that there is a problem at the heart of that issue, which very few settlements in the middle east have managed to resolve. Any settlement in Yemen is likely to require the engagement and attention of the outside world for a long time.
Whatever we say about our involvement as an arms exporter to the region, it is clear that we have an historical and moral role in the affairs of that part of the world. Almost since 1945, the situation in Yemen has been one of civil war of some sort. The coalition includes Saudi
Arabia and the Gulf countries—those countries are our friends; we have influence with them, and we must work with them closely to stop this humanitarian catastrophe.
Throughout this period, Yemen has been one of the poorest areas of the world. Save the Children has been working in Yemen since 1963, and it is a damning comment on the lack of political progress and commitment to solve the conflicts there that it is probably helping the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of families that it worked with more than 50 years ago. The humanitarian position is one of deep crisis, and I am reassured that it fully engages the attention of the Government through DFID, and that that engagement is respected by non-governmental organisations working in Yemen. We are a leading donor, along with the US and the UAE, and I welcome the Secretary of State’s recent announcement of an additional support package.