British Prime Minister Theresa May has been quick to distance the government from comments made by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, which claimed Saudi Arabia and Iran were causing proxy wars throughout the Middle East.
In the latest of Mr Johnson’s apparent public gaffes, he told an audience in Rome last week that the absence of true leadership in the Middle East had resulted in people being allowed to distort religion, resulting in war.
“You’ve got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in, and puppeteering and playing proxy wars. And it is a tragedy to watch it,” Johnson said.
“There are politicians who are 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.”
Although in the latter quote he does not directly refer to Saudi Arabia or any neighbouring country in particular, the initial quote is one which caused controversy at Number 10.
The Prime Minister’s quick response to the comments, underline the importance she places on a strong alliance with Saudi Arabia – a major customer for British defence companies.
The spokeswoman for Ms May said: “Those are the foreign secretary’s views, they are not the government’s position on for example Saudi and its role in the region.”
May, who visited the Middle East this week, met Saudi King Salman and said afterwards: “[We] set out very clearly the government’s view on our relationship with Saudi Arabia, that it is a vital partner for the UK particularly on counter-terrorism.
“We want to strengthen that relationship.”
Her spokeswoman said May still supported her foreign secretary, adding that Johnson would have the ‘opportunity to set out the way that the UK sees its relationship with Saudi Arabia’ during a visit to the region.