The UK government wants to expedite decisions on new licences for arms export to Saudi Arabia and its allies, despite an adverse court order in this regard, according to a top UK defence official.
“Our intention is to take new export licencing decisions as soon as we can put in place the right processes,” Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer, the UK’s Defence Senior Advisor to the Middle East, who recently visited the UAE, told Emirates News Agency, WAM, in an exclusive interview.
“The UK Government has always taken its export control obligations very seriously and we seek to address this matter as soon as possible, in accordance with our legal obligations," he added.
The UK Court of Appeal ruled on 20th June that the British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which could be deployed by the Arab Coalition to restore the legitimate government in Yemen, were “unlawful,” a step that Sir John Lorimer labelled as “disappointing.”
“The UK is disappointed with the recent decision, and we are appealing the outcome. Our commitment to the security of the Gulf remains unchanged. This judgement does not immediately affect existing export licences, which will continue to be valid,” Lt. General Lorimer said.
“However, we cannot currently grant new licences for Saudi Arabia and [Arab] Coalition partners for items that might be used in the conflict in Yemen, while we consider the implications of the judgment,’ the British official who studied Arabic and Islamic Studies at Cambridge University from 1985 to 1988, added.
“The commitment of the UK to the security of Saudi Arabia and the stability of the region remains unchanged. The UK’s security is intertwined with that of the Middle East; our values require us to play our part in making a constructive difference, and our unique links mean that we have the ability to do so,” the British Defence Senior Advisor went on to say.
The UK continues to lead a sustained diplomatic campaign to support the UN-led peace process to resolve the conflict in Yemen, he affirmed.
On UK’s current military deployments in the Middle East, he stressed that those are not in direct response to the existing US-Iran tensions in the region.
“The current UK deployments are pre-planned and are not a direct response to the existing tensions. Our continued military presence demonstrates this intent. We have over 1500 personnel permanently stationed in the region, along with several Royal Navy ships and some of the most advanced military aircraft,” he added.
The British official, however, affirmed that his country is seeking a diplomatic solution and a de-escalation of the tensions.
Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer joined the British Army in 1981 and he was commissioned into the Parachute Regiment. He served in all three regular Parachute Regiment battalions in a number of regimental appointments and attended the Army Staff College in 1994.
On various senior positions during his long career, he served the British Army in Northern Ireland, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He became Chief of Joint Operations, CJO, from October 2014 until June 2017. In January 2018, he took over as Defence Senior Advisor to the Middle East.