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UK arms officials met with Saudi Arabia days after Khashoggi murder: Report

Members of Defence and Security Organisation visit Riyadh to promote weapon sales days after Khashoggi murder in Saudi's Istanbul consulate
Protesters against UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia during Saudi crown prince's visit to London in March 2018 (AFP)

Members of the Defence and Security Organisation, a government agency within the UK's Department of International Trade, met with Saudi Arabian officials to promote arms exports just days after the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Mirror report said late on 31 December.

Citing documents obtained in a Freedom of Information request, the Mirror report said the DSO delegation visited Riyadh on the day of Khashoggi's disappearance – 2 October – and made subsequent visits to the kingdom to promote arms sales on 14 and 22 October.

The delegates reportedly included Nigel Maddox, a retired top air force officer who now works as a senior DSO official.

The Mirror said that government officials confirmed that Department of International Trade meetings took place in Riyadh during those dates.

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A government spokesperson told The Independent that "visits by officials from the UK will continue to play a role in maintaining our relationship with Saudi Arabia including in how we work together to tackle regional threats, and support mutual national security and prosperity interests".

The UK has sold roughly $5bn of arms to Saudi Arabia since March 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition on Yemen began.

Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign in Yemen in 2015 to root out the country's Houthi rebels, who had taken over the capital, Sanaa, and ousted the internationally recognised and Saudi-backed government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

While the war in Yemen has triggered what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, fighting between the Houthi movement and the US-backed military coalition headed by Saudi Arabia has persisted despite repeated international calls for a ceasefire.

The country's health services and water supplies have been severely damaged, more than two million people have been uprooted from their homes, and about 14 million Yemenis are on the brink of famine as a result of the conflict, the UN said.

According to the UN, almost 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition joined the conflict in 2015. The figure may be much higher, as an independent research group put the death toll as a result of direct fighting at 56,000 since 2016.

Last November, Save the Children said as many as 85,000 children under five may have died as a result of starvation or disease in Yemen since 2015.