UK, Saudi Arabia ‘call to disarm Hezbollah, rein in Iran’

UK, Saudi Arabia ‘call to disarm Hezbollah, rein in Iran’

In a joint statement, governments agree Lebanese terror group’s destabilizing influence must be addressed

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (L) greets Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) outside 10 Downing Street, in central London on March 7, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (L) greets Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) outside 10 Downing Street, in central London on March 7, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)

Saui Arabia and the UK vowed in a joint statement Saturday to deepen ties and strategic cooperation on issues of common interest, including efforts to disarm Hezbollah and weaken Iran’s regional influence, Saudi press reported.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at the end of the latter’s state visit to London, agreed that the Lebanese government should be supported in extending its control over Lebanese territory, and stated that it was important to “disarm the Hezbollah militia and confront its destabilizing role.”

The two countries also discussed the need for Iran “to abide by the principles of good neighborliness, [and] non-interference in the internal affairs of countries,” and to “take concrete and practical steps to build confidence and resolve its differences with its neighbors by peaceful means.”

The two nations further agreed on various avenues of future cooperation, including education, science, technology, and finance.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a televised speech during a ceremony held by the terror group in Beirut commemorating its killed leaders on February 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Joseph Eid)

Bin Salman was also greeted in the UK by Queen Elizabeth II.

But his arrival drew protests on the streets of London over the brutal Yemen conflict.

May defended the invitation when she was grilled in Parliament over why Prince Mohammed was being afforded the red carpet treatment during his three-day visit.

“The link with Saudi Arabia we have is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country” due to anti-terrorism cooperation, she told MPs.

“Their involvement in Yemen came at the request of the legitimate government of the Yemen, it is backed by the UN Security Council, and as such we support it.”

The three-year conflict, which began with the Saudi-led intervention to fight Iran-backed Huthi rebels, has left 22.2 million people dependent on food aid, according to UN figures.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused May’s government of “colluding” in war crimes by selling arms to Saudi Arabia, and even suggested that British military advisers were “directing the war.”

May responded that her relationship with Prince Mohammed had already helped alleviate the humanitarian crisis by convincing him to ease Saudi blockades of ports in Yemen during a meeting in December.

The pair met at Downing Street for talks on reforms in Saudi Arabia, trade and investment relations, and defense and security cooperation.

The crown prince noted there were now “huge opportunities” to boost trade ties post-Brexit.

“I have no doubt that it’s a very deep relationship,” he added. “And it’s different and it’s not only about politics, or military, or intelligence, but also socially and economically.”

Following the talks, a Downing Street spokeswoman said May “welcomed recent reforms in Saudi Arabia, including on women,” and had raised Britain’s “deep concerns” at the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

“The prime minister and crown prince agreed on the importance of full and unfettered humanitarian and commercial access, including through the ports, and that a political solution was ultimately the only way to end the conflict and humanitarian suffering in Yemen.”

The spokeswoman said the summit yielded “a landmark ambition” for around £65 billion ($90 billion) of mutual trade and investment opportunities in coming years in areas ranging from education to defense.

She added this would include direct investment in Britain and “new Saudi public procurement with UK companies.”

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