Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s comment on ‘proxy wars’ in the Middle East drained Prime Minister Theresa May’s goodwill mission
Boris…Boris…Boris..He did it. This time putting his own saviour in a tight spot. She was the only woman spotted with the most powerful forum in the Gulf yesterday. She had shaken hands with the Arab sheikhs ruling the petro kingdoms. But today her position was shaky a her own foreign secretary goes undiplomatic way. There will be national interests and personal interests. Mr Johnson prefers the latter.
But , the No 10 said Mr Johnson was not representing the government’s views on Saudi Arabia.
Footage has emerged from an event last week at which Mr Johnson said UK ally Saudi Arabia was engaging in “proxy wars” in the Middle East.
The spokeswoman insisted Downing Street had “full confidence in the foreign secretary” but said Saudi Arabia was “a vital partner for the UK, particularly on counter-terrorism and, when you look at what is happening in the region, we are supportive of the Saudi-led coalition which is working in support of the legitimate government in Yemen against Houthi rebels”, the Guardian reported.
Asked if the prime minister had any sympathy with Johnson’s view of the Yemen conflict, she added: “I’ve set out what the PM views are, and those are the foreign secretary’s views, they are not the government’s views on Saudi and its role in the region.”
Johnson’s remarks, published in the Guardian, came at an embarrassing moment for Downing Street, emerging shortly after Theresa May returned from a two-day trip to the Gulf where she spoke repeatedly of the closeness of the relationship between the UK and Gulf states.
Mr Johnson told the Med 2 conference: “There are not enough big characters, big people, men or women, who are willing to reach out beyond their Sunni or Shia or whatever group to the other side and bring people together and to develop a national story again.
“That is what’s lacking. And that’s the tragedy,” he said, adding that “visionary leadership” was needed in the region.
He went on: “That’s why you’ve got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in and puppeteering and playing proxy wars.”
Johnson will travel to Saudi Arabia to meet government ministers on Sunday.
The Saudi government understood the official position of the government clearly because the prime minister had set it out to the king in person during a bilateral meeting this week, Downing Street insisted.
“The prime minister spoke to the king of Saudi Arabia herself, this week, not just in a bilateral but at the Gulf Cooperation Council and set out very clearly what her position is. I think those in Saudi Arabia heard the prime minister and heard her commitment to enhancing and strengthening this relationship,” the spokeswoman said.