John Key lands in Saudi Arabia amid Yemen bombing

  • 28/04/2015

John Key has landed in Saudi Arabia today, just as its war with rebels in neighbouring Yemen intensifies.

Mr Key has given New Zealand's tentative backing to the Saudi bombing campaign that has killed more than 500 civilians amid warnings Yemen could become another Iraq or Syria.

Mr Key's Air Force 757 will hit the ground in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom's fighter jets fly out for full-scale air attacks on Yemen for the fifth week in a row.

He took the red carpet as he whisked from Dubai to Abu Dhabi to meet the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan.

Al Nahyan was holding court with about 100 of his sheikhs when Mr Key arrived. The prince is effectively in control of the UAE and in charge of its defence force, which is currently part the Saudi Arabia-led military action in Yemen.

It turns out that's why he cancelled a meeting with Mr Key yesterday – so he could go to Saudi Arabia for an urgent meeting about escalating the bombing of Houthis rebels.

"[Al Nahyan's] saying 'yes, you've got to stand up to them', because without that they will essentially cause carnage in the region," says Mr Key.

Operation Decisive Storm was meant to have ended last week, but the air strikes are on again. More than 1000 people have been killed, including at least 500 civilians and 100 children.

So does New Zealand back the airstrikes?

"The position is we understand why they are doing what they are doing, but our strong and preferred position is they negotiate a peaceful way forward, that is our view," says Mr Key.

"We don't condemn them for what they are doing, but it is not a long-term solution."

The Saudi strikes are backed by the United States, while Iran backs the rebels.

The Islamic State (IS) is taking hold in Yemen, even though al-Qaida is already there.

The Prime Minister is in the region to explore trade with the Middle East, but keeps having to talk about war. He got a chance to push his trade message as the first international leader to do a press conference on the helipad of iconic Dubai building the Burj Al Arab.

Mr Key will be the first New Zealand Prime Minister to visit Saudi Arabia and will get an audience with King Salman.

Saudi Arabia is the world's biggest oil exporter and is an incredibly rich country, but it also has unbelievably poor record when it comes to human rights.

The state has beheaded more than 40 people this year and women aren't allowed to drive.

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source: newshub archive