- ‘You’ve got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in and puppeteering and playing proxy wars’
by Adam Withnall
A video has emerged of Boris Johnson disparaging the role in the Middle East of Britain’s ally Saudi Arabia, accusing the nation of “playing proxy wars” and abusing Islam for political ends.
The Foreign Secretary was very positive about Saudi-UK relations during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning.
But speaking just a few days earlier at a conference in Rome, Mr Johnson said Saudi Arabia and Iran were “moving in and puppeteering” in neighbouring states.
The video from the Med 2 event, published by The Guardian, shows Mr Johnson agreeing with Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who said: “The issue is [countries] using religion as an instrument of politics. That should not be.”
In the video, Mr Johnson can be seen saying: “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.
“And the tragedy for me – and that’s why you have these proxy wars being fought the whole time in that area – is that there is not strong enough leadership in the countries themselves.”
The Foreign Secretary said there were not enough “big characters” in the region who were willing to “reach out beyond their Sunni or Shia” group.
He told the conference: “That’s why you’ve got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in and puppeteering and playing proxy wars.”
Mr Johnson spoke positively about the role leaders in Cyprus were playing in bringing the Turkish and Greek communities of that island together, adding: “I see that in Cyprus and I have to tell you, I don’t see it anywhere else in the region.”
“We need to have some way of encouraging visionary leadership in that area. People who can tell a story that brings people together from different factions and different religious groups into one nation. That’s what is missing.” More in Independent
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