Britain's May heads to Saudi Arabia for Yemen talks
The British leader will hold talks on issues including Qatar and Yemen with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of the kingdom's war in Yemen, which has been at a stalemate for months.
May will then head to Jordan for meetings with King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Hani Mulki.
"This visit demonstrates that as the UK leaves the EU we are determined to forge a bold, confident future for ourselves in the world, a spokesman for May said.
"It is clearly in the UK's security interests to support Jordan and Saudi Arabia in tackling regional challenges to create a more stable region, and in delivering their ambitious reform programmes to ensure their own stability," he added.
May's visit is expected to include her asking Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to allow humanitarian aid through Yemen's port of Hodeidah, held by the Houthi rebels being targeted in the Saudi-led war.
|London has signed off on more than £3.3 billion worth of arms sales to Riyadh since March 2015|
Britain's largest trading partner in the Middle East, London has signed off on more than £3.3 billion (€3.7 billion, $4.4 billion) worth of arms sales to Riyadh since March 2015.
During that time Saudi Arabia has embarked on a bombing campaign in Yemen that has been condemned for contributing to a humanitarian disaster.
"We are very clear that we want to see full humanitarian and commercial access through the port of Hodeidah," May said on Tuesday. "Obviously that is an issue I will be raising when I am in Saudi Arabia."
Saudi Arabia closed off Yemen's seaports and airports over a November 4 rebel ballistic-missile launch that targeted the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The kingdom said it intercepted the missile, the deepest yet to penetrate the country.
Under intense international pressure, Saudi Arabia later promised it would reopen the ports for humanitarian aid.
The Saudi-led coalition began its war in Yemen in March 2015 claiming it was on behalf of Yemen's internationally recognised government against the Houthis and their allies.
The conflict has pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine, killed over 10,000 civilians, displaced three million people and left much of the infrastructure in ruins.
May has faced increasingly calls to stop British arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid the conflict, which has seen kingdom-led airstrikes kill hundreds of civilians.
May's visit seeking out Crown Prince Mohammed comes as the 32-year-old son of King Salman now appears to hold the levers of power in Saudi Arabia. French President Emmanuel Macron made a surprise visit to the kingdom earlier this month as well, to see the young royal.
In recent weeks, the crown prince led a purge, or what the kingdom described as an anti-corruption campaign, arresting prominent princes, business leaders, military officials and others.