AMMAN, Nov 30, (Agencies): Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday underlined Britain’s support for the nuclear deal concluded with Iran which came into force in October 2015. “We must stand firm in our support for the …. deal,” she told reporters in Jordan at the end of a brief visit to the Middle East.
US President Trump has called the Iran deal the worst of its kind ever struck by a US administration. Meanwhile, May has implored Saudi leaders to ease a blockade on war-torn Yemen to “avert a humanitarian catastrophe”, her office said on Thursday, echoing urgent appeals from the United Nations.
A Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed Houthis rebels has only partially lifted a crippling aid blockade on Yemen, which was imposed earlier this month in response to a missile fired by the Houthi that was intercepted near Riyadh airport. May — on a Middle East tour that took her to close ally Jordan Thursday — met both Saudi King Salman and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh late Wednesday, with the worsening crisis in Yemen topping her agenda.
“The prime minister made clear that the fl ow of commercial supplies on which the country (Yemen) depends must be resumed if we are to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” May’s office said. “They agreed that steps needed to be taken as a matter of urgency to address this.”
Saudi Arabia is Britain’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, and London has signed off on more than £3.3 billion ($4.4 billion/3.7 billion euros) worth of arms sales to Riyadh since March 2015. That was the month that Riyadh launched its intervention against the Yemeni rebels who still control the capital Sanaa and much of the north of the country.
The war has since killed around 8,600 people, while a further 2,000 have died of cholera. The United Nations on Monday urged the Saudi-led coalition to do “much more” to ease the blockade impeding shipments of aid and fully reopen the key rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida.
The coalition has allowed some supplies to reach rebel-held Sanaa and the Saleef Red Sea port, also in the Houthis’ hands. But little aid has entered through Hodeida, the main conduit for UN-supervised deliveries of food and medicine. UN officials say Yemen could face the world’s largest famine in decades unless the crippling blockade is lifted.
During her Middle East tour, May also lashed out at Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch foe. Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Iran, the predominant Shiite power, have a long-standing rivalry based as much in geostrategic interests as religious differences. At a press conference in Jordan after meeting King Abdullah II, May excoriated Tehran for “destabilising activity” across the region from Yemen to Syria. The Saudi-led coalition, which began its military intervention in Yemen in 2015, has accused Iran of supplying ballistic missiles to the rebels. Tehran denies the charge.
May called for a tougher response to Iran’s “ballistic programme and proliferation of weapons” and said it was “unacceptable” for the Houthis to fire missiles at Riyadh. Yemen’s Houthis on Thursday threatened retaliation unless the blockade is lifting, implicitly threatening fresh missile attacks. On Syria, the British premier called on all players to “unite behind” UNled talks in Geneva and “stop creating rival” processes as Russia, Iran and Turkey push a separate initiative. May’s tour also saw her make a surprise stopover in Baghdad Wednesday where she met her Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi and hailed recent military gains against the Islamic State group. As the jihadists have lost the vast bulk of their territory in the face of multiple offensives, the West is now increasingly focusing on stopping fighters returning home to carry out attacks.