UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh.British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt has said prospects for talks to end Yemen’s 3-1/2-year-old war are “more real” after Saudi Arabia confirmed to him its willingness to evacuate 50 wounded Houthi fighters as a confidence-building measure.
Following meetings in Riyadh with the Saudi king and crown prince – the main proponent of Saudi military intervention in Yemen – Hunt also said he anticipated “rapid progress” in bringing to justice those responsible for last month’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“I was led to believe that certainly the legal processes are going to be starting very soon indeed and we should hear something about that quite shortly,” Hunt told Reuters in an interview.
Hunt’s trip, which included a meeting in the United Arab Emirates with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, comes as Riyadh, already under scrutiny for civilian deaths in Yemen air strikes, is facing global criticism and potential sanctions over Khashoggi’s killing inside its Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2.
The Western-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen resumed air strikes on the main port city of Hodeidah after a lull on Monday as Western allies pressed Riyadh to end a war that has pushed the impoverished country to the verge of starvation.
“Even though there’s been a temporary lull in the fighting, … it is a desperate humanitarian situation and so I impressed on everyone the urgency of the situation we’re facing,” Hunt said.
Britain is a major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, and opposition politicians and human rights groups have called on the government to cease such sales due to the high civilian death toll in air raids by the coalition in Yemen.
The government has said the arms sales earn Britain billions of pounds and guarantee jobs in the industry, and its response to the Khashoggi killing must bear this in mind.
Britain has pushed for new action at the United Nations Security Council to try to end hostilities in Yemen and find a political solution to the war.
The evacuation of Houthi fighters, which Hunt said would have conditions about who travels with them, was a Houthi condition for peace talks that collapsed in September after the armed group’s delegation failed to show up.