In an interview with Arab News’ sister newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, Johnson said Britain understood “Saudi Arabia’s need to defend itself and we understand his Royal Highnesses desire to protect his country.”
“It’s unacceptable that Iranian missiles are being used against Saudi Arabia and we wish to see an end to that,” the foreign secretary said.
Saudi Arabia, which is leading an Arab military coalition in Yemen in support of government forces against Iran-backed rebels, has been targeted by missiles fired across the border. Many are shorter range, hitting areas near the border, but the Houthis have increasingly launched longer range ballistic missiles, including several targeting Riyadh that were shot down.
UN experts in January reported they had “identified missile remnants” and other military equipment brought into Yemen of Iranian origin that violated an arms embargo.
Britain drafted a UN Security Council resolution last month on renewing an arms embargo on Yemen that would have put pressure on Iran over the supply of missiles to the Houthis. The council eventually adopted a resolution that failed to condemn Tehran after Russia vetoed the British version, drawing an angry reaction from the US and London.
In the interview published as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman started his three-day visit to the UK, Johnson said he agreed with Arab states’ concerns over Iran’s role in the region. “We want to see Iran’s role in Yemen constrained,” he said.
Johnson said Britain understands the legitimate government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was removed and there’s a UN resolution calling for him to be restored and that the Arab coalition is seeking to achieve that.
But he added that it was going to be difficult to get an exclusively military solution and that there needs to be political progress.
Prince Mohammed’s visit is expected to include discussions on security and the conflicts playing out in the Middle East.
Johnson described the situation in Syria as a “major tragedy” and said he agreed with Saudi Arabia on the need to relaunch negotiations in Geneva to start a political process.
He condemned the regime bombardment of Eastern Ghouta that has killed hundreds in the past two weeks and that the regime should be held accountable for its “disgusting” chemical attacks.
Johnson also said the raft of reforms launched in Saudi Arabia encouraged the UK to bolster cooperation with the kingdom.
He praised the Crown Prince for shifting Saudi Arabia away from its dependence on oil, adding that this opened up possibilities for partnership in cultural, health, transportation, technology, education and political fields.