Bin Salman visit: Emily Thornberry says UK should stop ‘bowing and scraping'

#Diplomacy

The shadow foreign secretary has called on Theresa May to use Britain's diplomatic power to call for a halt to Saudi bombing in Yemen

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has spoken passionately about the conflict in Yemen (AFP)
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Jamie Merrill, Diplomatic Editor
Last update: 
Wednesday 7 February 2018 11:57 UTC
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Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has demanded that Theresa May stops “bowing and scraping” to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of his controversial visit to London next month.

The Labour shadow cabinet minister has condemned the “red carpet treatment” expected to be offered to MBS when he meets with the British prime minister and senior members of the royal family in London.

Thornberry has called on the British government to explain why it is welcoming MBS to London despite “serious allegations” of violations of international humanitarian law by Saudi forces in Yemen.

The crown prince is the chief architect of the ongoing Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen and his planned three-day visit to London has been condemned by rights groups and campaigners.

Red carpet treatment

"The British people will rightly wonder why the architect of Saudi Arabia's disastrous war in Yemen should be given the red carpet treatment in Britain, while that war continues to rage, while Yemeni civilians continue to die from Saudi air strikes, and while millions of children continue to face starvation and disease,” Thornberry told Middle East Eye.

Thornberry added that the public will ask why MBS is being welcomed here despite “serious allegations" of violating international humanitarian law in Yemen. She said these included the “indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, the deliberate destruction of the country's food infrastructure, and the use of starvation as a weapon of war”.

More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the Yemen conflict, in which Saudi Arabia is making use of advanced British-made weapons, including bombs, missiles and Eurofighter jets.

In total, the UK has licensed more than $6.4bn in weapons, including fighter jets, bombs and missiles, to Saudi forces since the start of the Yemen conflict and the two countries signed a major defence agreement in September

'The British government should stop bowing and scraping to Crown Prince Salman, and instead discharge their responsibility to bring a resolution to the UN Security Council demanding a halt to this terrible war'

- Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary 

Thornberry's intervention comes after MEE reported on Tuesday that the visit by MBS had been delayed until 7 March amid concerns over planned protests and unflattering media coverage of the powerful young royal.

Her intervention has added Labour's voice to a broad coalition of NGOs and rights groups either condemning the planned visit or questioning its wisdom while Saudi Arabia is involved in the Yemen conflict.

End this terrible war

Thornberry, who has spoken passionately in parliament about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, also called on the UK to take the lead in pushing peace talks to end the conflict.

“The British government should stop bowing and scraping to Crown Prince Salman, and instead discharge their responsibility to bring a resolution to the UN Security Council demanding a halt to this terrible war," she told MEE.

Her intervention will be seen as a forceful call for Britain to use its influence to help end a war that has left more than 10,000 dead, a country on the brink of starvation, and international condemnation of Saudi operations - all under the sponsorship of a UN Security Council resolution.

Thornberry added that a ceasefire, negotiations and a replacement for the existing UN resolution could be achieved with British diplomatic support. Britain, she says, “holds the pen at the UN” on matters concerning Yemen.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has not spoken out over the planned visit so far, but has previously called for a halt to arms sales to Saudi Arabia.