(Title Image: Arab News)
It was recently revealed, following a parliamentary question by Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards MP, that Saudi Arabian pilots are being trained at RAF Valley on Anglesey.
The “Mach Loop” in Snowdonia has been used by several air forces for low altitude flying and, presumably, practice for bombing raids. Saudi Arabia has been accused of war crimes in its involvement in the Yemen Civil War and has been recently linked to the murder of a leading critic of the Saudi regime in Turkey.
It prompted a topical question from Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn).
“We could talk about the abhorrence internationally about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but what is most relevant here is the part played by the Saudi Arabian air force in attacks on the Yemen, where war has created an appalling humanitarian crisis, and whilst humanitarian forces try to respond to that, many ordinary people, including children, have been killed in air strikes. Amnesty International said recently that they have recorded 36 air attacks that appear to contravene international humanitarian law, including attacks on hospitals and schools, and we know that the Saudi air force is leading those strikes.”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM
He called on the Welsh Government to condemn the use of RAF Valley for possible air strike training. There was also a practical element, with protests planned at Valley this evening and the strain the presence of Saudi pilots might put on local police resources.
Neil McEvoy AM (Ind, South Wales Central) – who is of part-Yemeni descent – recently visited a mosque in Cardiff where worshippers had lost family members due to Saudi air strikes:
“People told me how proud they are to have somebody with an Arab Yemeni background being elected to this Assembly for the first time. It was more than disappointing to find out that, at the other end of the country, in Anglesey, Saudi Arabian pilots are being trained to bomb Yemen, leading to thousands of civilian deaths.”
– Neil McEvoy AM
Neil called on the Welsh Government to demand that Saudi pilot training ends.
“Not a matter to be discussed here”
Replying on behalf of the Welsh Government, Public Services Secretary, Alun Davies (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) said operational matters for the RAF and defence generally were non-devolved issues and not discussed in the Senedd.
Instead, he wanted to see greater support for, and an expansion of, the British military presence in Wales.
“We will all have our views on world events, such as those taking place in Yemen and elsewhere, and we will all have views on that. What is a matter for this place, and what I believe is a proper matter for discussion here is the role of all our armed forces and the bases that exist Wales in sustaining and supporting British armed forces and to ensure that British armed forces are available to take part in operations in any part of the world, at any time.”
– Public Services Secretary, Alun Davies
He went on to call for Brecon Barracks to be maintained as a national HQ for the British military in Wales and said it was “right and proper” to support the ability of the RAF to make operational decisions that they believe they need.