Norway halts defence exports to Saudi Arabia over Yemen

Norway said on Friday it was freezing all defence material export licences to Saudi Arabia over recent developments in the country and the war in Yemen.

The announcement came amid international outrage over Riyadh’s killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October, though Norway did not mention the murder specifically.
“We have decided that, in the current situation, no new licences are to be granted for exports of defence-related products or dual-use items for military use to Saudi Arabia,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in a statement.

“The decision was taken after an overall assessment of recent developments in Saudi Arabia and the region, and the unpredictable situation in Yemen,” the foreign ministry said.

Norway sold defence material worth more than 41 million kroner ($4.86 million, 4.29 million euros) to Riyadh last year, according to Norwegian news agency NTB.
The Scandinavian country has never allowed exports of arms or ammunition to Saudi Arabia, the ministry said.
It said it had no indication that Norwegian defence-related products were being used in Yemen, and stressed its decision was “precautionary”.

Saudi Arabia leads a coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the government there against Shiite Huthi rebels who are backed by Riyadh’s arch enemy Iran.
The coalition has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Yemen aimed at pushing the Huthis back, but the rebels still hold the key port city of Hodeida and the capital Sanaa.
Pro-government forces are currently pushing deeper into Hodeida amid fierce fighting. Nearly 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict since 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Human rights groups say the real death toll may be five times higher.
Several aid organisations and opposition parties have recently demanded that Norway halt its defence material exports to Saudi Arabia.


Four workers for Norway NGO detained in Yemen

Four Yemenis working with the Norwegian Refugee Council have been detained in a rebel-held part of the country, the NGO said Monday.

Four workers for Norway NGO detained in Yemen
A market in Hodeida. Photo: Rod Waddington/Wikimedia Commons
The workers had distributed aid the insurgents allege is linked to Saudi Arabia.
In a statement, the NRC said authorities in the rebel-controlled Red Sea district of Hodeida detained three Yemeni staff and a contracted driver on Tuesday last week.
“Due to the security sensitivities regarding our staff, we cannot comment any further on the matter at this time,” said the Oslo-based non-governmental organisation.
In a statement carried by Yemen's pro-government news website, Local Affairs Minister Abdul Raqib Fattah had said earlier a dozen staff had been “abducted” from the aid group's offices in the Hali district of Hodeida last week.
Local sources told AFP the employees were accused of having accepted and distributed aid from a Saudi-led coalition, which has been battling the Huthis since March 2015.
The NRC said it did not take funding from Saudi Arabia in any of its operations but had been using recycled boxes to distribute hygiene kits in Yemen.
The group said when staff had opened the boxes to distribute the aid, the inside read “The campaign of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for emergency response,” a reference to the Saudi king.
The boxes were dated January 2015 and had originally been used for food, according to the NRC.
Yemen's conflict pits a Saudi-led Arab coalition supportive of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against Iran-backed Huthis, who currently control the port of Hodeida along with the capital Sanaa and large parts of northern Yemen.
Monday's news comes amid a push by forces loyal to Hadi, backed by the Arab coalition, to close in on Hodeida, located on Yemen's western coast.
The loyalist forces took full control of Mokha, south of Hodeida, earlier in February as part of a major offensive to oust the Huthis and their allies from Yemen's southwestern coast.
The conflict escalated in March 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition began air strikes to help pro-Hadi forces to take large parts of the country back from the rebels.
More than 7,400 people have been killed and nearly 40,000 wounded in two years of fighting in Yemen, according to the World Health Organisation.
UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen James McGoldrick in January said more than 10,000 civilians had been killed since 2015.