Revealed: Saudi pilots trained by the RAF in Wales

Ben Wray

14 million on verge of famine in Yemen primarily due to Saudi bombing

A WRITTEN question to the UK Government has revealed that Saudi pilots are being trained at RAF Valley in Wales.

Saudi Arabia is currently engaged in a bombing campaign of Yemen which NGOs have said is primarily responsible for “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”. UN Aid Chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council last week that the country was on the verge of the worst famine in 100 years, with 14 million on the verge of starvation.

The UK Government has licensed the sale of billions in arms to Saudi Arabia since the air raids began three years ago, and has backed up Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman’s regime with logistical support for their operations in Yemen, including training.

However until now it had not been known that Saudi pilots were trained on UK territory.

READ MORE: ‘Condemnation will not do’: SNP’s Iain Blackford challenges May over Saudi arms sales at PMQs

The question posed to the UK Government by Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, read: “To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what discussions he has had with North Wales Police on the potential effect on the security threat level of training Saudi pilots at RAF Valley.”

The Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Defence Mark Lancaster MP responded: “The RAF Police, together with RAF Valley authorities, maintains routine contact with the North Wales Police. The current assessment is that there is a negligible potential security risk to North Wales associated with training Saudi pilots at RAF Valley so there have been no specific discussions with North Wales Police on this subject. All such assessments are kept under constant review.”

The news comes as internal UN documents have shown that Saudi Arabia and UAE has tied aid packages to Yemen to favourable press coverage in western media outlets, including The Guardian and New York Times.

The Visibility Plan put intense pressure on UN Aid agency, Ocha, to provide positive PR for the despotic regime, saying future grants would be based on the extent of good coverage, including UN hosted events highlighting the donations. In total the 48 steps laid out in the Plan covered the UN Development Programme, Ocha, the World Health Organization and Unicef.

READ MORE: Analysis: Backing Saudi Arabia leaves the UK with zero moral authority in the world

While the documents show Ocha resisted some of the plan, the organisation agreed to the proposal that “a specialised person is recruited by Ocha to be the focal point to ensure the implementation plan by all recipient agencies and to consolidate reports”

Ocha issued a statement, saying: “Most of the donors in Yemen and elsewhere have visibility requirements that are agreed bilaterally with the individual donor. Because they are bilateral agreements, we do not discuss the details of the individual agreements in public…Throughout the conflict in Yemen, the UN has been vocal, consistent and public in its call on all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. We will continue to do so.”

The Sunday Express reported on Sunday [28 October] that UK intelligence officials knew of a plot to capture Jamal Khashoggi three weeks before the Saudi journalist was killed [2 October] in a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

 “We were initially made aware that something was going in the first week of September, around three weeks before Mr. Khashoggi walked into the consulate on October 2, though it took more time for other details to emerge,” the intelligence source told the Sunday Express Friday,” the intelligence source told the Sunday Express.

READ MORE: Analysis: The Saudis are vulnerable and Yemen is on the brink of famine – it’s time to march

The same newspaper reported on Monday that Khashoggi was about to disclose details of Saudi use of chemical weapons in Yemen before he was killed.

Bloomberg has reported that the fallout from the Khashoggi scandal, which Turkey believes was ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince, is leading the US to push the Saudi dictatorship to reconcile with Qatar and end the war in Yemen.

Over 10,000 people have been killed in the Yemeni war with two-thirds of Yemenis 27 million population reliant on aid for food.

Picture courtesy of Welsh photographs