Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Adel Al Jubeir said on Wednesday that the conflict in Yemen was not a war of the kingdom’s choice.
Mr Al Jubeir – whose country leads an Arab coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels in Yemen on behalf of the internationally recognised government – said during a press conference with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, in London that the war “was imposed on us”.
He added that the Houthi rebels have since the war broke out in 2014 stolen more than $4 billion (Dh14.7bn) from Yemeni banks.
“They are working on smuggling and controlling telecommunications companies in order to finance their war,” he said, referring to the Houthis who have repeatedly launched ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia, which has intercepted them.
Mr Al Jubeir and Mr Johnson held a meeting on Wednesday on the heels of an official visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the UK.
The two men discussed co-operation between their two countries and ways to end the war in Yemen.
“Our talks have focused on how the UK can use its world-beating expertise to support Saudi Arabia’s reforms and how we can work together to end the tragic conflict in Yemen,” said Mr Johnson.
“It is vital that we bring this appalling conflict, which has inflicted so much suffering, to an end.
“Saudi Arabia is changing and so is Britain’s partnership with the kingdom in order to benefit the security and prosperity of both our kingdoms for many years to come.”
Mr Al Jubeir described Saudi-UK relations as “historical”, saying that he and Mr Johnson held “intensive consultations on several issues and challenges that affect stability in the region”.
“We are working together to strengthen co-operation in other files to present ideas on the Middle East peace process and enhance co-operation in the field of security,” said the Saudi minister.
Mr Johnson said that it was very important to work with Saudi Arabia as it advances its Vision 2030, put forth by the 32-year-old Crown Prince.
“I don’t think the people of this country actually fully understand yet what is happening in Saudi Arabia and the changes that are happening and the fact that women are now going to be able to drive cars,” he said.
“This is a big thing that’s happening. It’s a very important thing. That’s why we think it’s so important to try to work with Saudi Arabia as they advance this Vision 2030.
"I believe this occasion marks the beginning of a new era in our friendship because the very breadth and ambition of Vision of 2030 allows our relationship forwards to include co-operation in education, health, culture, sport, technology, you name it."
Mr Al Jubeir said the kingdom’s objective was to diversify from oil, open up other areas for investment, whether its recreation, mining or entertainment.
“Focus on technology, empower youth, empower women. Turn our country into a normal country so that people can lead normal lives and realise their hopes, dreams and ambitions,” he said.