British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Riyadh after controversial comments

boris johnson in saudi arabia
boris johnson in saudi arabia

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrived Sunday in the Saudi capital Riyadh, a few days after making controversial comments about the oil-rich kingdom.

Last week, Johnson accused Saudi Arabia and Iran of fighting “proxy wars” across the Middle East.

On Sunday, the top British diplomat arrived in Riyadh and was welcomed at King Khalid International Airport by the Saudi ambassador in London, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz.

The British foreign secretary used a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart to express only generalized “deep concern” for the humanitarian situation in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been accused of widespread rights abuses.

In the conference, Boris Johnson said: “I am here to emphasize the friendship that exists between the UK and Saudi Arabia.”

“It is something that is developing and expanding.”

“It is also fair to say that we believe in candour in our relationship. Now is the time for us to talk about the positive things that we are doing together.”

In his speech in Rome last week, Johnson criticized Riyadh and Tehran for “twisting and abusing religion and different strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives”.

“That’s one of the biggest political problems in the whole region. And the tragedy for me — and that’s why you have these proxy wars being fought the whole time in that area — is that there is not strong enough leadership in the countries themselves,” he said.

UK government reaction

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said Johnson’s remarks do not reflect actual policy.

Saudi Arabia is a long-term ally of the UK.

Saudi Arabia reaction

Asked if Riyadh had been getting mixed messages from Britain, Jubeir replied “Absolutely not!”

He said Johnson’s comments had been misconstrued and the UK and Saudi Arabia had enjoyed a long, strategic relationship over the last 100 years.

Johnson, however, on Friday delivered a speech in Bahrain in which he praised economic and strategic relations between London and the Gulf countries.