Yemen

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th April 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Labour, Swansea East 12:00 am, 12th April 2016

What recent assessment he has made of the security situation in Yemen.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The level of fighting in Yemen has reduced in recent weeks, and I am pleased to welcome the cessation of hostilities, which began on 10 April.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Labour, Swansea East

We finally have a fragile ceasefire in the region, but not before thousands have been killed and millions displaced. There have been wide accusations of serious war crimes. Will the British Government now finally support a full investigation into the allegations?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I join the hon. Lady in welcoming the cessation of hostilities. The peace talks will begin on 18 April in Kuwait. A number of organisations have been created, including the Yemeni national independent commission of inquiry, which is the appropriate body to look into human rights issues in Yemen. The Saudis have themselves organised their own investigative committee in order to analyse and put their hands up when mistakes were made.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Conservative, Charnwood

I commend the Minister for his tireless work in seeking an end to the horrendous conflict in Yemen. What steps are the Government taking to support the UN-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait in little under a week’s time?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We have participated fully in bringing together what has been a very complex situation. Often people simply try to knuckle it down to one, two or three sides, but al-Qaeda is in Yemen, as is Daesh. There are not only the Houthis and other groupings, but many militias that are looking at which way the winds will blow. I have spoken on a number of occasions to President Hadi, and indeed to Ismail Ahmed, the UN envoy, to encourage the ceasefire. I hope that we will see real progress when the talks commence in Kuwait on 18 April.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I welcome the ceasefire, but since Sunday there has already been an attack on Taiz. Will the Minister confirm that he will be in Kuwait on 18 April and that he will do all he can to ensure that the ceasefire holds?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I cannot confirm at this moment whether I will be attending, but the right hon. Gentleman is right to outline the breaches, which are taking place not only in Taiz, but elsewhere, including east of Aden, where 15 Yemeni soldiers were killed, and not by the Houthis or any other militia, but by al-Qaeda. It is important that we ensure that the talks work and that the international community supports them fully.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

May I just push the Minister on the answer he gave to my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris about the Saudi investigation into the conduct of the coalition campaign in Yemen? Does he have faith that the investigation will be thorough, independent and transparent? Does he expect the initial findings to be published? What follow-up will the UK take if allegations of war crimes are substantiated? Will he also outline the steps that the Government have taken to ensure that the UK liaison officers supporting the Saudi military campaign have not been unwittingly involved in potential war crimes?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

As I have said in the Chamber a number of times, we have one of the most robust systems of arms export control licences in the world, and it is important to make sure that they are robust. We have been working closely with the Yemeni authorities, but also with the Saudis, to make sure they put their hands up when a mistake is made. We have frank conversations with them privately to make sure that the investigation will work as we expect it to.