UK

Philip Hammond: More action needed on Syria and Yemen

Islamic State militants in Raqqa, Syria, undated Image copyright AP
Image caption The Syrian civil war has seen Islamic State militants take control of parts of the country

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is to press for more concerted action on the war-torn countries of Syria and Yemen during a tour of the Gulf states.

Mr Hammond is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia before going to Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

He said Britain's "strong relations" with Gulf states will enable them to "work together on regional challenges".

The Syrian civil war began in 2011 and the conflict in Yemen began in September 2014.

The foreign secretary will also meet the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, in Kuwait to underline UK support for the peace process in the country.

Why is there fighting in Syria?

Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?

No end in sight to war in Yemen

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Hammond said: "Wherever we look, the world is becoming more dangerous and more uncertain.

"International engagement is fundamental to maintaining both Britain's security and our prosperity.

"Britain's strong relations with the Gulf states enable us to work together on regional challenges and shared threats that confront us, whether from violent extremism, terrorism, or volatile economic conditions."

He said the Yemen crisis will be high on his agenda, saying that allowing the state to collapse "is simply not an option".

Conflicts

In Syria, what began as a peaceful uprising against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad five years ago became a full-scale civil war.

In the chaos, so-called Islamic State militants moved in over the border from Iraq and claimed territory.

More than 250,000 have people died in the conflict and 11 million made homeless.

The US, Russia, France and other world powers have entered the fray and the UK began air strikes targeting IS in Syria in December after MPs voted for action.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Foreign Security Philip Hammond will visit Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman after Saudi Arabi

In Yemen, the main fight is between forces loyal to the beleaguered President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and those allied to rebels known as Houthis, who forced Mr Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa in February 2015.

Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), adhere to a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism. They took control of Sanaa in 2014.

A coalition of Arab air forces, led by Saudi Arabia, began carrying out air strikes on the rebels in March 2015, saying it was "defending the legitimate government" of Mr Hadi.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates at least 3,200 civilians have been killed and 5,700 wounded, with 60% of the casualties inflicted by air strikes, in the year since the air strikes began.

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