Prime Minister Will 'Want To Take Action' In Yemen, Former Defence Minister Says

Boris Johnson supported sending British commandos into the country while he was foreign secretary.

A car bomb attack targeted a police station in Aden (Picture: PA).

The Prime Minister will "still want to take action" in Yemen after he supported sending in British commandos while he was foreign secretary, a former defence minister has said.

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said Boris Johnson had been supportive of a plan to send 3 Commando Brigade to Yemen as a humanitarian mission, to make sure aid got to civilians in a bid to "avert an appalling catastrophe".

The plan, put forward by Mr Ellwood in 2018, was to send forces to the port of Hodeidah to make sure vital humanitarian aid could get through to civilians caught up in the conflict between the two opposing sides, the Houthis and the coalition under Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Mr Ellwood said there had been international support for the operation but there had been concerns over the risk of British soldiers being drawn into the combat and potential negative headlines.

He said Mr Johnson, who was foreign secretary at the time, had been "encouraging" of the plans, and said he thought the UK would not "shirk" such missions in the future now Mr Johnson is in Downing Street.

Sanaa Yemen Ruins After Airstrikes by Saudi-led coalition forces
The aftermath of an airstrike in Yemen by Saudi-led coalition forces last year (Picture: PA).

Mr Ellwood told The Independent: "I had discussed a plan for Hodeidah initially with relevant regional states, the Saudis, the Emiratis and others when I was at the Foreign Office and they saw it as a very viable option.

"There was invaluable support from John Kerry [then US secretary of state, until January 2017] and other senior US figures, and Boris was very encouraging.

"I raised the matter again when I was at the MOD.

"The idea would have been to send 3 Commando Brigade as a humanitarian mission to ensure that aid got in and there was at least a real attempt to avert an appalling catastrophe.

"It wouldn't have been just us on our own, we would have received international support."

Mr Ellwood added: "It's the sort of thing Britain is good at and as the penholder on Yemen at the UN and our long historical association with the region we had an obligation to act.

"There was a lot of support but some were worried about the headlines.

"I hope now that Boris is at Downing Street we would not shirk missions such as these when they become necessary.

"My impression is that he will want to take action."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "We do not comment on special forces."