May pushes for end to Yemen blockade as country faces humanitarian crisis

Britain and Saudi Arabia agree that steps need to be taken as a matter of urgency in Yemen, Downing Street said, as the country teeters on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

As part of a whistlestop tour of the Middle East, Theresa May also met and held talks with her Iraqi counterpart, Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister, who said she would push for an end of a blockade in Yemen, then jetted off to Riyadh to have discussions with King Salman and the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Downing Street said the issue of Yemen was raised, and that the Prime Minister "made clear" the flow of commercial supplies, on which the country depends, must be resumed if a humanitarian catastrophe is to be averted.

"They agreed that steps needed to be taken as a matter of urgency to address this and that they would take forward more detailed discussions on how this could be achieved," Number 10 added.

Their talks also noted the progress which has been made in the fight to eliminate so-called Islamic State from the region, as well as the issue of Iran.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister noted that we shared Saudi Arabia's concerns about Iran's destabilising regional behaviour, and where they agreed that more work needed to be done to bring the international community together to counter it."

Prime Minister Theresa May with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh
Prime Minister Theresa May with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

Noting Britain and Saudi Arabia's "strong" relationship, discussions also focused on the kingdom's social reform programme, Vision 2030, with all agreeing these changes are key to the country's long-term stability and success.

Saudi Arabia backs Yemen's internationally-recognised government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and has faced intense condemnation over its bombing and military action.

Earlier this month the Saudi-led coalition mounted a sea and air blockade in an effort to prevent supplies reaching Houthi rebels - but has since lifted some of the restrictions.

On Thursday Mrs May will begin her next round of talks, as she engages with Jordan's King Abdullah and prime minister Hani Al-Mulki on how Britain can support their long-term economic resilience.

At the end of her tour, the Prime Minister will then deliver a speech on the subject of supporting Jordanian economic reform to parliamentarians, business leaders and the media.

During her last visit she announced that military trainers would be sent to Jordan, which borders Syria, to help the nation's air force eliminate IS.

So far four major training exercises have taken place in Jordan, with more than 3,000 UK service personnel involved.

Before her speech, Mrs May will see the impact UK support can have on creating jobs and opportunities in the region by meeting members of the Arab Women's Enterprise Fund.

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