London, March 4 (IANS) Dominic Raab is to press the Saudi Arabian government on its human rights record during his first visit to the country as British foreign secretary, officials said.

The Foreign Office said Raab would “engage” with Saudi counterparts on the issue and other areas of “difference”, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

He will also discuss the “devastating” humanitarian situation in Yemen and efforts to end its long-running war.

Labour has urged ministers to end all arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a major protagonist in the Yemeni conflict.

Last summer, the UK promised to stop approving export licences for arms to Saudi Arabia which could potentially be used in the civil war following a legal challenge by campaigners.

The UK and other Western powers are providing logistical support to a Saudi-led multinational coalition which is supporting the Yemeni government in its fight against the Iranian-backed rebel Houthi movement.

The five-year conflict, seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, has devastated the country and, according to the UN, claimed the lives of at least 7,500 civilians.

Ahead of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, Raab stressed its long-standing economic, security and intelligence ties with the UK but also the need for close co-operation on regional and global challenges.

The foreign secretary will hold talks with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, and the government’s National Security Adviser Musaad Al Aiyban as well as the Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Officials said Raab would continue to “drive progress” on the Yemen peace process, following the recent surge in Houthi violence and constraints on getting humanitarian aid to those in need.

Four-fifths of the Yemeni population — 24 million people — are in need of humanitarian assistance or protection, including ten million who rely on food aid to survive.




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