Riyadh: British Prime Minister Theresa May met Saudi leaders before leaving for Jordan today on a Middle East tour overshadowed by a high-profile row with US President Donald Trump over Islam.
Trump has infuriated British authorities with his tweets on terrorism in Britain, including highly publicised run-ins with London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan.
On Tuesday, he drew fierce condemnation at home and abroad for retweeting three incendiary anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy head of a British far-right group who has been convicted of a hate crime.
When challenged over the tweet, he then plunged deeper into controversy by suggesting May focus on defending Britain rather than criticising him.
May’s meetings in Saudi Arabia were all behind closed doors and there was no immediate comment from her to the latest outburst from Trump.
She met both King Salman and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The official Saudi Press Agency said they “reviewed bilateral relations… in addition to discussing developments in the region”.
May had promised to raise concerns over a worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen where a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has only partially lifted a crippling aid blockade.
UN officials have warned of the risks of the “world’s worst famine in many decades”.
May had insisted that she would send a clear message to the Saudi leadership about the need to fully reopen the main rebel-held port of Hodeida.
“I’m very concerned about the humanitarian crisis that has developed in Yemen, particularly most recently,” May told the BBC on Wednesday.
“That’s why the strong message I will be giving to Saudi Arabia tonight is that we want to see Hodeida port opened for humanitarian and commercial access.”
Saudi Arabia is Britain’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, and London has signed off on more than £3.3 billion (USD 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 in Yemen. The war has since killed some 8,600 people, while a further 2,000 have died of cholera.
In Jordan, May is due to hold talks with King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Hani Mulki. Jordan is a close British ally and a partner in the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.