Police boss: Saudi pilots stretching us to limit
SAUDI Arabian military pilots training at a North Wales air base are putting a strain on policing in the area, a police boss has said.
The revelation that Saudi pilots are still being trained at RAF Valley on Anglesey has been met with disapproval by the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones.
Mr Jones has raised concerns regarding their ongoing training at the base after it came to light on Monday that they were still being trained in the area despite the Saudi-led war in Yemen and the recent assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
He now fears that the presence of the air force of a “brutal regime” will put an additional strain on North Wales Police.
Mr Jones is worried it will leave the force “stretched beyond their capacity”
He said: “The presence of Saudi military pilots at RAF Valley is a concern whatever the political climate.
“The catastrophic civil war in Yemen and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi place an unprecedented additional burden on North Wales Police to ensure safety y and security.
“The Tory Westminster Government expect North Wales s Police to keep the area ea safe, adding unnecessary sary complexity but refusing sing to pay the bill, or even to properly fund the force.
“North Wales Police has a bigger area to cover than most other forces and has had to endure ruthless cuts as a result of Tory austerity. Throwing in the additional strain of having the air force of a brutal regime leaves the force stretched beyond their capacity.
“Unless police funding is appropriately increased, the people who will ultimately suffer from these strains will be the people of North Wales.” Their presence was uncovered by Plaid Cymru’s Defence Spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards MP, in a written parliamentary question to the Minister of State for Defence, Mark Lancaster, last Monday.
When questioned by Mr Edwards, Mr Lancaster insisted that there is a “negligible potential security risk to North Wales” associated with training Saudi pilots at RAF Valley. Mr Edwards is now calling on Westminster to stop using Wales as a “military playground” and “cosying up” to the Saudi military.
He said: “Following the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as a result of relentless military activity by the Saudi Government, the strong support from the Kingdom for Islamic terrorism and the ruthless murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the British Government must find its moral compass and review its strategic priorities.”
The presence of Saudi pilots has also been branded as “morally incorrect” by Plaid Cymru councillor for Anglesey, John Griffith.
He feels that the situation “needs to be reviewed” due to the ongoing dispute regarding the UK’s involvement in selling them firearms and the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Cllr Griffith said: “I know that Saudi pilots have trained here in the past, but I wasn’t aware it was ongoing.
“I am not qualified to make a judgement on whether or not training for Saudi pilots should be stopped given the current situation.
“But we do need to question whether or not it is morally right for the training to be carried out here.
“Saudi planes are flying as far as Yemen and killing innocent people – women and children included – who are not involved with the conflict.
“We have to question whether or not we are almost giving. them a helping hand by allowing them to carry out their initial training at RAF Valley.
“It needs to be reviewed from a moral point of view because through the sale of arms, the UK is almost giving support to the Saudi Arabian government.”
● Defence chief Mark Lancaster