Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

France 24 meets George Weah ahead of inauguration

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Gymnast's fierce courtroom address

Read more

THE DEBATE

A whole new world: Trump anniversary special

Read more

#TECH 24

Will artificial intelligence ever surpass the human brain?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Aiding migrants in France: What are the legal implications?

Read more

FOCUS

The challenge of clearing Colombia of landmines

Read more

REVISITED

Video: Gambians reflect on first year of democracy

Read more

FASHION

Pitti Uomo in Florence, the world's largest men's fashion showcase

Read more

ENCORE!

Award-winning Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza on keeping it real

Read more

Europe

UK's Boris Johnson slapped down over Saudi 'proxy wars' comment

© Tobias Schwarz, AFP | The former mayor of London is known for his tendency to go off-script.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2016-12-08

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was not setting out government policy when he said Saudi Arabia and Iran were stoking proxy wars across the Middle East, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday.

Johnson, known for his colourful use of language and tendency to go off-script, told an audience in Rome last week that the absence of real leadership in the Middle East had allowed people to twist religion and stoke proxy wars.

It is the latest in a series of gaffes by the foreign minister. Even May has jokingly said it is hard to keep Johnson "on message for a full four days". He has been criticised by some EU officials for using less-than-diplomatic language in talks on Britain's decision to leave the bloc.

May's quick response underlines the importance of Britain's alliance with Saudi Arabia, which is a major customer for British defence companies.

"You've got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in, and puppeteering and playing proxy wars. And it is a tragedy to watch it," Johnson said in a video posted on the Guardian newspaper's website.

"There are politicians who are twisting and abusing religion and different strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives. That's one of the biggest political problems in the whole region," Johnson said.

It is unclear from the video whether he specifically accused Saudi Arabia and Iran of twisting religion, though the Guardian reported that Johnson had accused Saudi Arabia of abusing Islam.

The spokeswoman for May said: "Those are the foreign secretary's views, they are not the government's position on, for example, Saudi and its role in the region."

May, who visited the Middle East this week, met Saudi King Salman and "set out very clearly the government's view on our relationship with Saudi Arabia, that it is a vital partner for the UK, particularly on counter-terrorism", she said.

"We want to strengthen that relationship", she added.

Johnson was a key player in the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. May appointed him in July, after he failed in a bid to become prime minister, cementing her appeal to other Brexit supporters in the ruling Conservative Party.

Her spokeswoman said May still supported her foreign secretary, adding that Johnson would have the "opportunity to set out the way that the UK sees its relationship with Saudi Arabia" during a visit to the region.

(REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2016-12-08

  • UK - EU

    UK to trigger Brexit process early 2017, says Boris Johnson

    Read more

  • FRANCE - UK

    Boris Johnson 'lied' to the British people about Brexit, says French foreign minister

    Read more

  • UK

    London’s pro-Brexit former mayor Boris Johnson named UK foreign minister

    Read more

COMMENT(S)