December 9, 2016 / 7:57 PM / 2 years ago

UK's Johnson says deeply worried about civilian suffering in Yemen war

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers a speech at Chatham House in London, Britain December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gareth Fuller/Pool

MANAMA (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Friday he understood Saudi Arabia’s concerns about upheaval in neighboring Yemen but he had “profound concern” about the suffering of Yemeni people after 20 months of war.

Johnson was speaking at a conference in Bahrain a day after footage was published of him accusing Saudi Arabia, an important ally for Britain, of stoking proxy wars across the Middle East.

He said he understood Saudi Arabia’s security was of “paramount importance”.

“But I must share my profound concern about the present suffering of the people of Yemen,” Johnson said in a speech at the Manama Dialogue on Middle East security.

A Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in March last year to prevent the Iran-allied Houthi movement from taking complete control of Yemen after it seized much of the north.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, half of them civilians, and unleashed a humanitarian crisis in the poorest country in the Middle East.

Johnson said that “force alone” would not bring about a stable Yemen and emphasized the need for a negotiated political solution.

He added that the “hand of Iran is clearly visible in Yemen.”

Reporting by William Maclean; Writing by Tom Finn; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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