Theresa May disclaims Foreign Minister Boris Johnson's remark on Saudi 'proxy war'

Britain's outspoken foreign secretary has claimed that UK ally Saudi Arabia was engaging in "proxy wars" in the Middle East, comments that Prime Minister Theresa May said do not represent Britain's position.

PTI| Updated: Dec 08, 2016, 23:19 PM IST

London: Britain's outspoken foreign secretary has claimed that UK ally Saudi Arabia was engaging in "proxy wars" in the Middle East, comments that Prime Minister Theresa May said do not represent Britain's position.

The Guardian newspaper today published footage of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson saying there was no strong leadership in the Middle East willing to reach out beyond the Sunni-Shia divide, and "that's why you've got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in and puppeteering and playing proxy wars." Johnson made the comments during a conference in Rome last week.

Downing Street was quick to distance itself from his remarks, which were awkward for the government because officials rarely, if ever, criticize allies in public. May spokeswoman Helen Bower said they were Johnson's own views and do not reflect Britain's policy on Saudi Arabia or the Middle East kingdom's role in the region.

Johnson is scheduled to be in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, when he could set out how Britain wants to boost its relationship with the Saudis and work with regional allies to tackle the conflict in Yemen, Bower added.

Britain backs a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, which has been in the midst of a civil war since Shiite Houthi rebels overthrew the government in September 2014.

Johnson had earlier defended UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for potential use in Yemen, amid calls to stop the sales from British lawmakers who said the weapons were likely used to violate human rights laws.