BORIS Johnson has defended arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the wake of allegations that Saudi forces are breaking international law in the conflict in Yemen.

The foreign secretary says there is no "clear breach" of international humanitarian law in the conflict, while coming under cross-party pressure to suspend the arms exports.

The Control Arms Coalition says Britain is estimated to have licensed £3.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombing of Yemen in March, 2015.

Campaigners are to protest about the sales outside parliament on Wednesday after Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International documented more than 70 unlawful strikes by the Saudi-led coalition – some of which may amount to war crimes – which have killed more than 900 civilians.

The Herald:

A girl stands on the rubble of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, February 2016

The Commons committee on arms export controls is due to meet on  Wednesday, when it is expected there will be a cross-party push for the UK to suspend its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Mr Johnson, in a written statement to parliament, says: “The key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to international humanitarian law is whether those weapons might be used in a commission of a serious breach of international humanitarian law. Having regard to all the information available to us, we assess this test has not been met.”

His judgement is believed to be mainly based on a Saudi-led inquiry into eight controversial incidents, including the bombing of hospitals.

A Saudi-led inquiry report, published on August 4 largely defended the bombing runs on the basis that the Saudis had received credible intelligence that enemy Houthi forces were in the area. In one case it offered compensation to the victims.

Defending the credibility of the report, Johnson said: “They have the best insight into their own procedures and will be able to conduct the most thorough and conclusive investigations. It will also allow the coalition forces to work out what went wrong and apply the lessons learned in the best possible way. This is the standard we set ourselves and our allies.”

But since the release of the report, Saudi air strikes on August 15 reportedly killed 19 people at a hospital in Hajjah supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). It was the fourth attack on an MSF facility in Yemen in a year, and led to the organisation withdrawing from parts of Yemen.

In the House of Commons chamber on Tuesday, SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh called on the UK government to “remove its head from the sand” and answer for their lack of action as to why an investigation had yet to be conducted into potential breaches of international law.

The Herald:

The MP also highlighted findings from a report by the Committee on Arms Exports Controls which stated that “it seems inevitable that any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK”.

She added: “The UK government must remove its head from the sand and immediately end arms sales to the Saudi regime that has time after time shown disregard for civilians in its indiscriminate bombardment of Yemen.

“Hospitals are being bombed and civilians are bearing the brunt of the bombing - we are now beyond hollow rhetoric. We need an urgent inde pendent investigation, we need answers and we need action to end the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen.”

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are currently subject to a judicial review, following an application by Britain's Campaign Against Arms Trade.

The claim calls on the government to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while it holds a full review into if the exports are compatible with UK and EU legislation.

A three day hearing is due to take place in front of two judges no later than February 1, 2017.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The Foreign Secretary is putting arms company profits ahead of human rights. The Saudi regime has created a humanitarian catastrophe and the UK government is complicit in it."