Boris: There is ‘candour’ in UK’s relations with Saudi

British Secretray of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson.
Picture: Getty Images

British Secretray of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson. Picture: Getty Images

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Boris Johnson has spoken of the “candour” that exists in Britain’s relations with ­Saudi Arabia following talks in the kingdom, just days after it emerged he had criticised the key ally.

The Foreign Secretary ­suffered a humiliating rebuke from Number 10 when he claimed the kingdom was behind “proxy wars” in the Middle East.

Riyadh is supporting the internationally-recognised government of Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels but thousands have been killed in aerial bombardments. At a press conference following meetings with King Salman and Saudi ministers, Mr ­Johnson said he had a “deep concern” about the suffering of Yemenis but backed the Saudi Arabia-led military intervention in the country.

He said: “It’s not just a relationship based on trade or security, it’s a relationship between peoples.”

Mr Johnson added: “I should just stress as far as Yemen is concerned, Britain supports the Saudi-led campaign to restore the legitimate government and we have continued our dialogue on the conduct of this operation, a detailed dialogue.

“Of course, we continue, like everybody in this room and around the world to have a deep concern for the suffering of the people of Yemen.”

Mr Johnson said the friendship between the two nations was “developing and expanding”. He added: “I’m here to emphasis the friendship that exists between the UK and Saudi Arabia.

“It’s also fair to say that we believe in a candour in our relationship. And now, if you don’t mind, is the time for us to talk about the positive things we are doing together.”

Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said: “There are no mixed messages that we are getting from Britain. Britain is an ally of Saudi Arabia’s.”

He added: “We don’t have any doubt in where Britain stands and Britain has no doubt where we stand.”

The Defence Secretary, meanwhile, claimed Mr ­Johnson’s criticism had been misreported and “taken out of context”.

Sir Michael Fallon also attempted to play down No 10’s rebuke, giving an account of what happened at a regular briefing between journalists and Downing Street officials, despite not having been there.

And he accused BBC Today presenter Nick Robinson, of “making a meal” out of the furore.

He said: “I think you really are making a meal of this. Boris’s comment, as we have already established, was taken out of context in the reporting that implied we didn’t support Saudi Arabia.”

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