Protests against Saudi crown prince 'based on misunderstanding'

Protests planned for the visit of Saudi Arabia's crown prince are based on a misunderstanding of the war in Yemen, the country's foreign minister has said.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will arrive on Wednesday for the controversial official visit which is set to be marked by demonstrations against his country's role in the bloody civil war in Yemen.

But foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir insisted the conflict was "just" and protests should focus on the role of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

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Saudi Arabia is the main player in a coalition supporting the Yemeni government against the Houthis in a war which has caused a humanitarian catastrophe.

Mr al-Jubeir told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the expected protests would not affect the crown prince's visit.

"This is part of your traditions, there are protests that take place in London all the time," he said.

"This is not going to affect the visit or the objective of the visit."

He added: "I believe that their positions are based on misunderstanding and not knowing.

"They criticise us for a war in Yemen that we did not want, that was imposed on us.

"They criticise us for a war in Yemen that is a just war, that is supported by international law.

"They criticise us for the casualties in Yemen when it was imposed on us by the Houthis.

"They should be demonstrating against the Houthis for taking nine-year-old boys into battle, they should be protesting against the Houthis for laying siege on towns and villages and starving people, for stealing humanitarian assistance."

The crown prince signalled the importance of the UK-Saudi Arabia relationship to security and also indicated that trade links could be boosted by Brexit.

"The British and Saudi people, along with the rest of the world, will be much safer if you have a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia," he said.

Extremists and the terrorists are linked through "spreading their agenda", he said, adding: "We need to work together to promote moderate Islam."

On trade, he suggested that his Vision 2030 plan for economic reform could benefit the UK once it leaves the European Union.

"We believe that Saudi Arabia needs to be part of the global economy," he said.

"People need to be able to move freely, and we need to apply the same standards as the rest of the world.

"After Brexit there will be huge opportunities for Britain as a result of Vision 2030."

Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade urged Theresa May to stop supporting Saudi Arabia.

He said: "The overwhelming majority of people in the UK do not share Theresa May's political and military support for the Saudi regime.

"Despite the spin surrounding the crown prince, he is a figurehead for one of the world's most authoritarian dictatorships.

"The regime has carried out atrocities against Saudi people for decades, and has inflicted a terrible humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen.

"It is time for Theresa May and her colleagues to end their shameful support for this appalling autocracy."