Britain is exploiting a rift between several Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and Qatar through designating both sides as the “priority markets” for its arms sales, a report suggests.
The Middle East Eye (MEE) report cited a list of 46 states highlighted by the UK Department for International Trade Defense and Security Organization as potentially lucrative markets for weapons exports.
The list included Qatar as well as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, which cut ties with Doha three months ago.
This is while many of the countries identified as key targets for the British arms sales are included in the government’s own “human rights priority registers.”
The list comes ahead of the Defense & Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair scheduled to be held in London on September 12-15.
“The fact that, despite current tensions, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both on the list tells us everything we need to know,” Andrew Smith, spokesperson of the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade organization, told the MEE.
Britain, he said, has “made clear that it will pull out all stops to sell arms to” both sides of the Qatar crisis.
Back in June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE imposed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.
They presented Qatar with a list of 13 wide-ranging demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face unspecified consequences.
Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and said that they were meant to force the country to surrender its sovereignty.
UK arms fair hosts despots
In a relevant development, the UK government published its official guest list for DSEI, comprising 56 countries, among them Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Qatar.
Smith said the list included “a roll call of despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers. They will be greeted by civil servants and government ministers who are there for one reason only: to promote weapons.”
MP Caroline Lucas, UK Green Party co-leader, also called for the closure of the London arms fair.
“DSEI is a dark stain on our country’s already tarnished reputation. It’s time that this festival of violence was shut down for good – and for the UK to engage in peace-building rather than trying to cement itself as the world’s weapons dealer,” she said.