Sunday 11 December 2016 2:55 pm

Johnson keen to emphasise UK’s close ties with Saudi Arabia after critical comments on Yemen

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reiterated Britain's close ties to Saudi Arabia on a visit there yesterday, days after making comments seen as critical of the desert kingdom's actions in Yemen.

"I'm here to emphasise the friendship that exists between the UK and Saudi Arabia, and that is something that is developing and expanding," Johnson said

In a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, he said that he had deep concern for Yemeni suffering but recognised Riyadh faced a grave threat from that country's conflict, in which the kingdom is leading a coalition of Arab forces against an Iranian-allied Yemeni group.

He added: "And it's also fair to say that we believe in candour in our relationship. Now is the time for us to talk about the positive things that we are doing together."

Saudi Arabia is set to utilise the experience of leading City firms in their $2 trillion national economic transformation programme following a high level meeting in Riyadh at the end of November.

Nearly 60 Saudi and British delegates participated in the Saudi British Joint Business Councils Infrastructure Planning and Financing meeting in Riyadh on 28 November.

Representatives from DLA Piper, Adam Smith International, Atkins Acuity and Carillion Saudi Arabia made well-received presentations on regulatory frameworks and relevant case studies. Panellists from HSBC, PwC and Pinsent Masons joined a wider discussion on project finance.

There was considerable interest in UK experience of PPP as Saudi Arabia embarks on Vision 2030 implementation. A number of follow-up actions were agreed and endorsed by SBJBC’s biannual meeting on 30 November.

These include the preparation of a “PPP lessons learnt” paper, and SBJBC engagement with the new Privatisation Unit in the Ministry of Economy & Planning, prior to a second interactive workshop on project delivery in 2017.