Boris Johnson's Saudi Arabia comments slapped down by PM but Hillary Clinton, German intelligence and the UN expressed similar views
Boris Johnson has been slapped down by Theresa May for his comments on Saudi Arabia's role in the Middle East but the UK Foreign Secretary isn't the first to express such sentiments.
Downing Street said Johnson's comments on Saudi Arabia do not represent "the government's position". The PM's spokeswoman said the comments were the foreign secretary's personal views.
Mrs May's spokeswoman said: "Saudi Arabia is playing an important role in Yemen and we support the actions of the coalition there."
Footage emerged from an event last week at which Mr 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.
"And the tragedy for me – and that’s why you have these proxy wars being fought the whole time in that area – is that there is not strong enough leadership in the countries themselves."
The foreign secretary identified Saudi Arabia and Iran specifically, saying: "That’s why you’ve got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in, and puppeteering and playing proxy wars."
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.
Although the Foreign Secretary said Saudi plays a destabilising role in the Middle East, he did not support a ban on British arms sales to Saudi Arabia three months ago. He insisted the alleged Saudi human rights violations in Yemen had not been proven.
While the PM has distanced the British government from Mr Johnson's views, his comments are in line with those previously expressed by Hillary Clinton, German intelligence, the United Nations, Medecins Sans Frontieres and other MPs.
Clinton: Saudi 'gives Isis financial and logistic support'
In October WikiLeaks's Podesta emails revealed that Hillary Clinton identified the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar as “clandestine” “financial and logistic” supporters of terrorist group Isis, despite surface cooperation between the US and the Sunni states on combating the militants and other actions in Syria’s multi-sided civil war.
“While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Isis] and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” Ms Clinton reportedly wrote.
“This effort will be enhanced by the stepped up commitment in the [Kurdish Regional Government]. The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious US pressure.”
'World's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups'
In the 2010 Wikileaks released cables signed by Hillary Clinton when she was US secretary of state that said that Saudi Arabia is the world's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money.
"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," Clinton wrote in the leaked 2009 memo.
"Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."
German intelligence: Saudi plays destabilising role
German intelligence service BND warned last year that Saudi Arabia is playing an increasingly destabilising role in the Middle East. The German government distanced itself from the remarks.
Saudi removed from UN child killer list after 'financial threat'
Saudi Arabia had been blacklisted for killing and maiming children in Yemen but the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon removed the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen from an annual UN register of children’s rights violators, after the middle-eastern country and its coalition partners threatened to cut off crucial funding to the world body.
MPs urge halt to UK arms sales over Saudi Arabia 'human rights breaches'
In September last year a parliamentary report called for all sales of UK weapons which could be used in Saudi Arabia's military action in Yemen to be halted until the completion of an independent inquiry into alleged breaches of human rights.
The joint report by the House of Commons Business and International Development Committees said it had been presented with evidence of "clear violations" of international humanitarian law (IHL)
Medecins Sans Frontieres accuses Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in Yemen
International medical aid charity Medecins Sans Frontieres accused the coalition of war crimes for an air strike on its hospital.