Po­lice boss: Saudi pilots stretch­ing us to limit

Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS -

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

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