RIYADH: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Sunday reiterated the UK’s historic ties with Saudi Arabia, putting to rest his controversial comments about Saudi Arabia.
Addressing a joint press conference here with his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir, Johnson said, “I am here to emphasize the friendship that exists between Britain and Saudi Arabia and that is something which is developing and expanding, strengthening bilateral relations.”
“And it’s also fair to say that we believe in candor in our relationship. Now is the time for us to talk about the positive things that we are doing together,” Johnson said.
Commenting on the controversy, Al-Jubeir blamed it on poor selection of words by the media saying the foreign secretary’s comments had been “misconstrued” and misreported to which Johnson responded quickly by saying, “that’s right.”
Al-Jubeir noted that Johnson clarified it by reaffirming the UK’s strong relations with the Gulf countries while addressing Arab leaders in Bahrain and that he understood the necessity for Saudi Arabia to lead a coalition of Arab forces against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
“I know my colleague and friend Johnson, I met him many times, I think his remarks were publicized out of context,” he said.
Johnson who expressed concern for Yemeni people’s suffering, recognized that Riyadh faced a grave threat from Yemen’s conflict.
“It is important to find a political solution to restore peace and stability in Yemen,” the foreign secretary said, adding that the Houthis’ launching of ballistic missile toward the Kingdom, targeting the holy city, is “intolerable.”
Johnson, who arrived here with his delegation on Sunday, met with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman at Al-Yamamah Palace and discussed bilateral ties and several issues of common interest.
He also met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and discussed with them ways of further strengthening bilateral cooperation, especially in security field and combating terrorism. They also reviewed the situations in the Middle East.
Later, speaking at a press conference jointly held by Al-Jubeir, Johnson said that key regional issues including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon and Iran topped the agenda of their talks.
“With the focus on the whole gamut of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern, we also discussed solutions and cooperation to this regard,” he said.
He said the British government is looking forward to working with the Kingdom and other Gulf states to combat terrorism and deal with Daesh.
On Iranian intervention he said, “when it comes to Iran, we need to be very clear about that; we should try to build relations with Iran, but we need to be vigilant of its role in the region.” Their influence in the region must be diplomatic and not of direct intervention, he added.
Al-Jubeir said that “we wish to maintain good relations, but the Iranian policy of ‘death and destruction’ plays the villain; they attack embassies, make assassination bids on diplomats; Iran has links with Al-Qaeda established by Imad Mughniyah of Hezbollah.”
“There is only one country not attacked by Al-Qaeda, and that is Iran because of their nexus,” he said.
With regards to joint cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the Islamic alliance against terrorism, Johnson said, “we are looking forward to working together for better coordination and better cooperation to deal with this.” He further said that terrorism is not only worrying the Middle East, but “it is equally worrying for us as we all are victims of it and we should work together to combat this menace successfully.”
In related news, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon also blamed the row on the media, saying reports about the foreign secretary’s comments had been misreported.
“The government’s view is absolutely clear that what Saudi Arabia is entitled to do is defend itself from these attacks across its own border,” he added.