As President Emmanuel Macron kicked off the Paris Peace Forum on Sunday, fighting spiraled in the Yemeni city of Hodeida.
The forum, attended by dozens of world leaders, emphasized cooperation among nations. But how will Macron demonstrate these principles when it comes to Yemen?
Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. It stands on the brink of a famine years in the making: Half of its population, 14 million people, may starve if something does not change.
The parties to the four-year-old conflict, the Houthis, who control key areas in the north, and the Saudi-led coalition forces trying to oust them, have instrumentalized civilian suffering – denying aid, wrecking the country’s economy, and destroying critical infrastructure. Now, fighting has ramped up around Hodeida, Yemen’s most important port. Humanitarian experts warned that any disruption to this crucial lifeline in a country dependent on imports will be catastrophic.
Europe’s governments have yet to unite to push for an end to attacks on civilians and the denial of humanitarian aid – and to impose consequences on those responsible. Cooperation among countries that prioritizes rights could make a real difference for Yemeni civilians.
But when it comes to the arms sales that fuel abuses in Yemen, France is becoming an outlier.
Other countries, including the Netherlands and Austria, banned or restricted arms sales to Saudi Arabia relatively early in the war. Germany recently halted sales. Others, like France and the United Kingdom, have continued selling weapons, despite the civilian toll, the many likely war crimes, and their own laws regulating arms sales.
While Macron urges addressing the humanitarian crisis, he and others ignore that continuing arms sales only encourages Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners in their potential war crimes.
In a recent poll in France, 75 percent of people who responded said they want Macron to suspend sales to Saudi Arabia, while at least 63 percent of Britons polled oppose sales. Europe’s governments should forge a common position ending these sales, press all parties to the conflict to guarantee unimpeded access and movement for vital imports, and condemn any deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians. By joining such an initiative, Macron would be giving substance to France’s calls to end atrocities in Yemen.