Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Syria stuck with Assad for now, says UK minister Jeremy Hunt

February 17, 2019

Syria has no future under Bashar Assad but is stuck with the president due to Russian support, Britain’s top diplomat has said.

Jeremy Hunt, the UK foreign secretary, said that Assad is likely to remain in his position “for the short-term and possibly longer,” and called on Moscow to come forward with a solution.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is seen outside of Downing Street in London, Britain, February 4, 2019. (Reuters)

“Assad … is a truly horrific man who has shown that he won’t hesitate to butcher his own people in order to prolong his hold on power. And what future would a country like Syria have with a leader like that?,” Hunt said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

“But the reality is because of Russian support, he is there and he is likely to stay for the short-term and possibly longer. It is for the Russians now to come forward with their solution because they have chosen to intervene in the way they have.”

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Hunt said it was “impossible” for Syria to have a bright future with Assad still in power.

“This is a man who mercilessly gassed his own people in the most brutally possible way against all international norms, and the Russians chose to prop him up. So it is for Russia now to show they are going to create peace and stability in Syria,” he said.

Hunt added that the UK has “no plans” to reopen diplomatic relations with Syria.

Syria's bloody war caused a cataclysmic split between Erdogan and Assad [File: Reuters]

The British official said the US withdrawal from eastern Syria should not take place in a way that harms “our allies like the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) in Syria who fought very bravely along Western troops for many years.”

Asked about Britain’s role following the US pullout from Syria, Hunt said: “There is no prospect of British troops going in to replace the American troops leaving, but of course we had discussions with the United States on an ongoing basis and when I was in Washington a couple of weeks ago about how we stabilize the situation in Syria.”

Hunt also spoke about the territorial defeat of Daesh in Syria and Iraq — but cautioned that was not the same as crushing the mindset behind the terror group.

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“We have not yet eliminated the cause of the Daesh movement which is so evil and so destructive and there is a lot more work left to do,” he said.

“It is very important that the global coalition does not hang its hat up and say we are done now, because if we do that there is a very good chance that Daesh will be back.”

“There (is) some evidence now in parts of Iraq that (Daesh is) regrouping and regathering strength.”

On Yemen, Hunt underlined the need for a comprehensive solution that would prevent Iran from using the country as a base to destabilize neighboring states.

Asked about his recent participation in the Warsaw Conference on the Middle East, the British foreign secretary said that the meetings went beyond the Iranian role in the region to touch on reshaping alliances in the Middle East.

He added that he attended a “very productive meeting about Yemen,” in the presence of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.

“We spent a long time talking about what is necessary to get peace over the line in Yemen,” he said.

In this regard, Hunt affirmed that a comprehensive settlement in Yemen could only be reached through “a government of national unity in which the Houthis have a stake in which the security of all communities in Yemen is assured, in which Iran is no longer using Yemen as a base to destabilize Yemen’s neighbors, and in which we can end the terrible humanitarian crisis which is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world right now.”

According to Hunt, the problem lies in how to achieve a final solution and to build trust, in particular the importance of implementing the Stockholm Agreement and withdrawal from the city of Hodeidah “so that we can open up the Red Sea Mills,” where 51,000 tones of UN wheat is stored.

He noted that he held a lengthy discussion with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif about this issue.

According to Hunt, he was told by Zarif that Iran wants to play its part in finding a solution. “We took those commitments at face value but we do now need to see that translated into the Houthis leaving the Port of Hodeideh.”

“All of us know that if that does not happen soon, we are going to see a return to hostilities and that would be an absolute tragedy to the people of Yemen,” Hunt said.

A version of this story was originally published in Asharq Al-Awsat


Saudi crown prince heads for Pakistan amid India tensions

February 17, 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday at the start of his tour of South Asia and China, but the visit risks being overshadowed by escalating tensions between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.

The trip comes days after a suicide bomber killed 44 Indian paramilitary police in the disputed Kashmir region. New Delhi has accused Pakistan of having a hand in the bombing and vowed to punish Islamabad, which denies involvement.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

Cash-strapped and in need of friends, Pakistan is welcoming the crown prince with open arms for a visit during which he is expected to sign investment agreements worth more than $10 billion.

Saudi Arabia has in recent months helped keep Pakistan’s economy afloat by propping up its rapidly dwindling foreign exchange reserves with a $6 billion loan, giving Islamabad breathing room as it negotiates a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.

Analyst say the crown prince’s trip is being treated by Islamabad as the biggest state visit since Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, soon after Beijing announced plans to invest tens of billions of dollars on infrastructure in Pakistan as part of China’s global Belt and Road initiative.

The visit marks a deepening in ties between allies whose relationship has in the past centered on oil-rich Saudi Arabia backing Pakistan’s economy during difficult periods, and in return Pakistan’s powerful army lending support to Saudi Arabia and its royal family.

As the guardians of most holy sites in the birthplace of Islam, the Saudi royal family carries vast religious clout in Pakistan, a staunchly conservative and mainly-Muslim nation of 208 million people.

“What is happening in this relationship is a renewal of Pakistan’s commitment to help protect the royal family and the order as it exists in Saudi Arabia,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, Senior Fellow at Tabadlab, a Pakistani think tank focused on global and local public policy.

“On the flip side, there is reassurance that Saudi Arabia will not only continue to serve as a strategic friend who will help shore up Pakistan’s finances when needed, but it’s also going to become a participant in the wider investment in Pakistan.”

Pakistan is shutting down its airspace and has stepped up security in Islamabad for the crown prince, who is set to become the first guest to stay at the Prime Minister’s House. Pakistan’s new populist premier, Imran Khan, has refused to use the residence in a bid to save taxpayers’ money.

Pakistani hopes for further investment opportunities from Saudi Arabia were dealt a blow on Saturday when the government announced that the Pak-Saudi Business Conference had been “postponed”.

Pakistani officials have already flagged up that Saudi Arabia will announce eight investment agreements, including a $10 billion refinery and petrochemicals complex in the coastal city of Gwadar, where China is building a port.

But the crown prince’s arrival comes amid a vow by India to isolate Pakistan internationally following the deadliest attack in Kashmir in decades.

New Delhi is demanding Islamabad act against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group, which it says has the backing of the Pakistani state, over the bombing. Islamabad denies playing a role and has called for an investigation.

In Islamabad, the crown prince is expected to meet Khan and Pakistan’s army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa. He is also likely to meet representatives of the Afghan Taliban militant group to discuss peace negotiations to end the 17-year civil war in Afghanistan, Pakistani government sources say.

Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Nick Macfie


See also:

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan ‘to sign deals worth up to $20 billion’

Saudi intel officers said Khashoggi killing was a ‘disaster,’ Erdoğan says

February 16, 2019

Saudi Arabia’s own intelligence officers said the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a “disaster” when Turkey allowed them to listen to the audiotapes of the murder, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Friday.

In a live broadcast interview with Turkuvaz Media Group broadcasters, Erdoğan slammed the CIA and U.S. for failing to “put their full weight” behind an investigation into the Saudi journalist’s death.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump failed to meet a 120-day deadline to provide a report to Congress on the killing. Also last week, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial and Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard concluded after a visit to Turkey that Saudi Arabia not only planned and perpetrated the killing but also hindered Turkey’s investigation efforts.

“I must thank the Turkuvaz Media Group for revealing some important information on the Khashoggi murder, which, as far as I know, will be published not only in Turkish but also in English and Arabic,” the Turkish president said.

Erdoğan also said the fifth and next Turkey-Russia-Iran leaders’ meeting on Syria will be held in Turkey, noting that the latest Sochi summit was very productive and useful. Erdoğan and his Russian and Iranian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani met in Sochi on Thursday to discuss the ongoing peace process in Syria.

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (r), Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, (c), and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani pose for the media members in Sochi, Russia, November 22. 2017. (Kayhan Ozer/Pool via AP)

Speculating on U.S. President Donald Trump’s possible announcement on Daesh in Syria, Erdoğan said it was likely Trump would likely say that the U.S. has defeated Daesh in the country. The U.S. president said hours earlier that an announcement on Daesh in Syria would be made within “24 hours.”

Erdoğan also said that U.S. refusal to extradite Gülenist Terror Group’s (FETÖ) leader Fetullah Gülen is raising tension in relations with Turkey. Turkey has submitted a series of files requesting the extradition of Gülen, who is accused of carrying out the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, but the U.S. has made very little progress toward serving justice over the terrorist leader.

In regard to Turkey-EU relations, Erdoğan said: “The only reason why the EU does not accept Turkey’s accession is that we are a Muslim country. An official actually confessed about this.” The president noted that EU officials do not dare to mention this and instead use excuses like Turkey’s population is too high to become a member state but say otherwise behind closed doors.


Turkey’s journey to become a member of the EU has seen numerous ups and downs in the last 50 years. Ankara has been doing its part to cooperate in the negotiations, which started in 1963 with the Ankara Agreement. Nevertheless, Turkey is still waiting for membership decades later as the EU continues to drag its feet.

Iran Guards Commander Ties Pakistan, Saudi, UAE to Deadly Attack

February 16, 2019

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards criticized Pakistan for providing support to terrorists who killed 27 personnel in a suicide bomb attack in southeast Iran this week.

Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said Pakistan’s government was sheltering groups behind the Wednesday attack and “had to be held accountable for the crime,” the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported. The attack coincided with a U.S.-led summit in Warsaw focused on rallying support against Iran.

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Mohammad Ali Jafari

The general also singled out the United Arab Emirates and regional rival Saudi Arabia in connection with the incident, warning that Iran’s “patience” with them “will be different.” Jafari accused them of acting on behalf of the U.S. and Israel.

The attack, in Iran’s southeast Sistan-Baluchistan region bordering Pakistan, was the single deadliest assault on the IRGC since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.


Iran asks Pakistan to move against attackers, warns Saudi

February 16, 2019

Iran urged neighbouring Pakistan on Saturday to crack down on militants who killed 27 of its Revolutionary Guards in an attack near the border or expect military action by Tehran “to punish the terrorists”, state media reported.

Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari also warned Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that they could face “retaliatory measures” for supporting militant Sunni groups that have attacked Iran’s security forces. Riyadh and the UAE deny this.

A bomb attack on a Revolutionary Guards bus in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province Wednesday killed some 40 people.

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images via Fars News Agency

“If Pakistan does not carry out its responsibilities, Iran reserves the right to confront threats on its borders … based on international law and will retaliate to punish the terrorists,” Jafari was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

A suicide car bomber killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday in a southeastern region where security forces are facing a rise in attacks by militants from the country’s Sunni Muslim minority.

The Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic minority Baluchis, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim authorities say militant groups operate from safe havens in Pakistan and have repeatedly called on the neighbouring country to crack down on them.

“They (attackers) are backed by reactionary regional states, the Saudis and the Emiratis, under orders from the Israelis and the Americans … and we will certainly take retaliatory measures,” Jafari told state television.

The remarks came amid heightening regional tensions after Israel and the Gulf Arab states attended a summit in the Polish capital Warsaw this week where the United States hoped to ratchet up pressure against Iran.

Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Mark Potter



Iran general says Pakistan backs group behind suicide bomb

February 16, 2019

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards accused “Pakistan’s security forces” of supporting the perpetrators of a suicide bombing that killed 27 troops on Wednesday, in remarks state TV aired Saturday.

“Pakistan’s government, who has housed these anti-revolutionaries and threats to Islam, knows where they are and they are supported by Pakistan’s security forces,” said Revolutionary Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, referring to jihadist group Jaish al-Adl (“Army of Justice”)

In this file photo from October 31, 2017, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks to journalists after his speech at a conference called 'A World Without Terror,' in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

In this file photo from October 31, 2017, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks to journalists after his speech at a conference called ‘A World Without Terror,’ in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

“If (the Pakistan government) does not punish them, we will retaliate against this anti-revolutionary force, and whatever Pakistan sees will be the consequence of its support for them,” he warned.

Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

The general made the remarks in Isfahan City on Friday evening during a farewell ceremony held for those killed. Funerals are expected to follow on Saturday.

Jaish al-Adl was formed in 2012 as a successor to the Sunni extremist group Jundallah (Soldiers of God), which waged a deadly insurgency for a decade before it was severely weakened by the capture and execution of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi by Tehran in 2010.

Iranians mourn victims of a suicide bombing on a Revolutionary Guards bus in southeastern Iran, as the coffins arrive at Badr airport in Isfahan, some 400 kilometres south of the capital Tehran on February 14, 2019

Iranians mourn victims of a suicide bombing on a Revolutionary Guards bus in southeastern Iran, as the coffins arrive at Badr airport in Isfahan, some 400 kilometres south of the capital Tehran on February 14, 2019 fars news/AFP

The Wednesday bombing targeted a busload of Revolutionary Guards in the volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which straddles the border with Pakistan.

The attack was one of the deadliest on Iranian security forces in recent years and came just days after Iran held more than a week of celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the US-backed shah.

The commander also blasted “the support that the region’s reactionary states Saudi Arabia and the Emiratis” maintain for “conspiracies” that he said were ordered by Israel and America.

“We will certainly follow retaliatory measures,” he added, without elaborating.

Rouhani has warned that Iran will make those responsible for the attack 'pay for the blood of our martyrs' [ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH/EPA]

Rouhani has warned that Iran will make those responsible for the attack ‘pay for the blood of our martyrs’ [ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH/EPA]

Jafari’s comments came ahead of a two-day visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan, which is set to begin on Sunday.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has linked the prepetrators of the attack to “the spying agencies of some regional and trans-regional countries”.



At least 27 killed in suicide attack on Iran Revolutionary Guards’ bus

Saudi Crown Prince To Visit Pakistan On Day Late, Reschedule Trip to Indonesia, Malaysia, China, India After Kashmir Terrorism

February 16, 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman delayed the start of his visit to several Asian countries by a day and will postpone travel to two South-east Asian nations.

Mohammed will arrive in Pakistan on Sunday (Feb 17), a day later than scheduled, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement without giving a reason for the delay.

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He is expected to sign a number of memorandums of understanding for investments including one for the setting up of a US$10 billion (S$14 billion) oil refinery.

There are heightened tensions between India and Pakistan after an attack on a convoy in Kashmir this week left 40 Indian paramilitary personnel dead and many others injured. Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based terror group, claimed responsibility for the attack. Kashmir has been divided between nuclear-armed Indian and Pakistan since 1947 but is claimed in full by both.

It isn’t clear if the attack and tensions are behind the delay.

The prince – the kingdom’s de facto ruler – is also scheduled to visit China and India as part of the Asian tour where he is expected to sign a slew of bilateral investment agreements.

He is postponing his trips to Indonesia and Malaysia, according to the respective foreign ministries.

Saudi Arabia is looking eastward after a troubled year for its relationships with the US and Europe as the alliances were shaken by the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia and Indonesia will continue to communicate on a new date for a visit and better outcomes, the Indonesian ministry said on its website. The crown prince was scheduled to sign several agreements in Indonesia.

In Malaysia, he was to jointly inaugurate the Pengerang Refining and Petrochemical complex, a venture between the state oil companies of the two countries. The event has been postponed, according to a company statement.


Airbus CEO tells Germany to reform arms policy for good of Europe –“moral superelevation” on arms exports isn’t working

February 16, 2019

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders urged Germany to press ahead with plans to create common European regulations on arms exports, saying the issue posed a litmus test for Berlin’s ambitions to foster a European defense policy.

Farnborough International Airshow (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Dunham)

UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Airbus CEU Tom Enders in front of an Airbus 380 military plane at the Farnborough Air Show

By showing “a kind of moral superelevation” on arms exports, Germany was frustrating Britain, France and Spain, Enders told Reuters, adding that without a common European approach Airbus could consider manufacturing German-free products.

German restrictions on arms exports to non-EU or NATO countries have been a thorn in bilateral co-operation for years because of the historical objections of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition.

Berlin can stop exports of arms that include parts made in Germany under existing arrangements.

“Yes, the French and Germans are apparently talking about it and trying to find a new regulation … But at the moment there are no results,” Enders told Reuters in an interview.

“It has been driving us crazy at Airbus for years that when there is even just a tiny German part involved in, for example, helicopters the German side gives itself the right to, for example, block the sale of a French helicopter,” he added.

Eurofighter (Imago/BildFunkMV)

German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet

Much to France’s irritation, Germany decided unilaterally last October – following the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul – to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, its second largest market in the world after Algeria.

That decision has blocked the export license for the sale of the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, which is supposed to equip the Saudi Air Force Eurofigher Typhoon.

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The Meteor is assembled by European leader MBDA, a subsidiary of Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo, while its propulsion system and its warheads are manufactured in Germany.

A future warplane system launched this week by Paris and Berlin and a plan for a tank of the future could also be compromised if Berlin does not adapt its policies, French diplomatic and military sources warned.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen called on Thursday for a common European arms export policy, telling the Munich Security Conference:

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“We Germans should not pretend that we are more moral than France or more politically far-sighted than Great Britain in terms of human rights policy.”

A French government official said on Friday that the two countries had exchanged letters on the subject as was normal procedure, but that work was still ongoing.

“On the fundamentals on both sides we’ve expressed our desire to resolve this problem. The work is still ahead of us,” the French official said.

Enders said Germany needed to secure common arms regulations if it wanted to push ahead with plans for a European defense policy.

“It is to some degree a litmus test as to how serious the Germans are about common defense and close Franco-German cooperation,” he said.

Additional reporting by John Irish and Tanya Wood; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Kirsten Donovan


Afghan Taliban likely to meet Saudi crown prince in Pakistan

February 16, 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is likely to meet Afghan Taliban representatives during his visit to Pakistan starting on Sunday, Pakistani government sources said, part of efforts to broker an end to Afghanistan’s 17-year-old civil war.


Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

Pakistan has been playing an increasingly vital role in the Afghanistan peace talks, which have been gathering momentum in recent months amid a growing U.S. desire to pull out its troops.

Along with other Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia has been part of the peace negotiations and is seen to have some sway over the Afghan Taliban militants due to Riyadh’s historical ties with the hardline Islamist group and the kingdom’s religious clout as the birthplace of Islam.

Two senior Pakistani officials said the crown prince was likely to meet Afghan Taliban representatives in Islamabad, where the militants, fighting to restore strict Islamic rule in Afghanistan after their 2001 ouster, say they are due to meet U.S. representatives and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (left) with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

“Though it is top secret so far, there are strong indications representatives of the Afghan Taliban will meet Prince Salman during their visit of Pakistan on February 18,” one of the Pakistani officials in Islamabad said.

A senior Taliban leader in Qatar said no decision had been made on whether they would meet the crown prince.

“Actually meeting Prince Salman is not in the plan so far but we can discuss it when we are in Islamabad,” said the Taliban representative.

Taliban Mullah Abbas Stanikzai, center, attends “intra-Afghan” talks in Moscow on Feb. 6. (AP)

Pakistan’s Foreign Office and Saudi Arabia’s government did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The crown prince is expected to stay to leave Pakistan on Monday after signing a raft of investment agreements in the energy sector for more than $10 billion.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a live TV broadcast at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan January 28, 2019. (Presidential Palace office/Handout via Reuters)

But his trip, which Islamabad is treating as the biggest state visit in years, risks being overshadowed by escalating tensions between India and Pakistan following a militant attack on Indian security forces in the disputed Kashmir region.

New Delhi says Pakistan had a hand in the attack by a militant group which is based on Pakistani soil, something Islamabad denies.

UN warns of locust surge on both sides of Red Sea

February 16, 2019

A locust outbreak in Sudan and Eritrea is spreading rapidly along both sides of the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Friday, flagging a possible threat to crops and food security.

A member of the FAO with a locust at a camp in Madagascar. The FAO uses insecticides to reduce the threat of swarms of the voracious feeders, which can eat their own body weight in a day. (AFP)

“Good rains along the Red Sea coastal plains in Eritrea and Sudan have allowed two generations of breeding since October, leading to a substantial increase in locust populations and the formation of highly mobile swarms,” it said.

At least one swarm had crossed to the northern coast of Saudi Arabia in mid-January, with further swarms a week later.

Rains from two cyclones in 2018 had triggered breeding of locusts in the Empty Quarter region of Saudi Arabia, near the Yemen-Oman border, and a few swarms from two generations of breeding had reached the UAE and southern Iran.

There was a risk of further spread toward the India-Pakistan border, the FAO statement said.

“The next three months will be critical to bring the locust situation under control before the summer breeding starts,” FAO locust expert Keith Cressman said in the statement.

“The further spread of the current outbreak depends on two major factors — effective control and monitoring measures in locust breeding areas of Sudan, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia and the surrounding countries, and rainfall intensity between March and May along both sides of the Red Sea and in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula.”

Control operations have treated nearly 85,000 ha (200,000 acres) since December including 30,000 ha in the past two weeks in Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, the FAO said.

Control measures are also underway in Iran after at least one swarm arrived on the southern coast at the end of January, it said.

Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind and adult insects can consume roughly their own weight in fresh food per day. A very small swarm eats as much in one day as about 35,000 people, posing a devastating threat to crops and food security.

In an emailed comment to Reuters, Cressman said the last major desert locust upsurge was in 2003-2005 when more than 12 million hectares were treated in west and northwest Africa, incurring a cost of about $750 million including food aid.