Foreign Office urges Britons to leave Yemen while they can

Anyone with British relatives or friends in strife-torn Yemen is being urged to contact them and plead with them to get out of the country while they still can.

The emotional warning issued by the Foreign Office yesterday is another sign that the credit that Yemen's long serving President has in Whitehall has run out. It was coupled with a veiled warning from a Foreign Minister, Alistair Burt, that, if his troops continued killing civilians as he clings to power, he could face trial in an international court.

The urgency of the Foreign Office advice suggests that Yemen is now classed alongside Libya and Somalia, where civil government collapsed 20 years ago, as one of the three most dangerous places in the world.

Mr Burt said yesterday: "Our clear message to British nationals still in Yemen is that they should leave immediately, while commercial flights are still operating.

"We cannot expect forewarning of any airport closures, and, if the situation deteriorates, it would be extremely difficult for the British government to assist its nationals in Yemen to reach safety. I cannot stress this too strongly. I ask those in the UK with friends, relatives and loved ones in Yemen to tell them to leave."

Mr Burt's statement went on to condemn the most recent reports of civilian deaths "in the strongest terms". He added: "The Yemeni government and security forces must exercise restraint and fulfil their responsibility to protect the Yemeni people, and the fundamental rights and freedoms they are entitled to. They must hold to account those responsible for excessive use of force. The reach of international justice is long, and the regime should note this.

"We and our partners in the Gulf region and elsewhere have repeatedly called on President Saleh to sign and implement the Gulf Co-operation Council agreement. He must do this, if Yemeni lives are to be saved, and if the country is to have a chance of orderly transition."

Since the breakdown of negotiations between the Yemeni opposition and the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh on 22 May, the Foreign Office has pulled all but a skeleton staff out of the British embassy in Sanaa. It is thought that most roads leading out of the Yemeni capital are blocked.

The warning to get out of Yemen fast contrasts with the advice to Britons in Bahrain, where civil rights demonstrations by the majority Shia population have been violently suppressed by troops loyal to the Sunni-dominated government, backed by Saudi forces.

The advice to Britons there is to "maintain a high level of security and exercise caution, particularly in public places". Those who have no "essential" business in Bahrain are being advised to leave.

In Syria, where civil rights demonstrators have also been killed by government troops, the Foreign Office is saying that "British nationals who have no pressing need to remain should leave now by commercial means."

Until recently, President Saleh was seen by Britain as a force for stability in the Gulf and an ally against al-Qa'ida, which was using his country as a base for terrorists attacks abroad.

In January 2010, Gordon Brown hosted a London summit on Yemen after it emerged that the terrorist who attempted to blow up a plane over Detroit had met up with al-Qa'ida in Yemen. Politicians from all parties agreed then on the need to increase support for President Saleh's government to prevent the country falling into anarchy. The Department for International Development had already announced that aid to Yemen would be increased five-fold, to £50m a year, by 2011.

But President Saleh, who has ruled the northern part of Yemen since 1978, and the whole country since unification in 1990, forfeited his support in Whitehall when he failed to seal an agreement with the opposition, condemning his country to seemingly endless civil conflict.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Financial Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Financial Analyst is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Secretary

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness