Published: Thu, March 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Saudi crown prince's United Kingdom visit prompts heavy criticism by opposition

Saudi crown prince's United Kingdom visit prompts heavy criticism by opposition

The Labour leader is told his claim is "simply untrue" as Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets the Queen.

"The link that we have with Saudi Arabia is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country", May said in response to a question from opposition Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The debate took place as Prince Mohammed lunched with the British monarch on the first leg of trip packed with displays of diplomatic affection created to help the widen longstanding defence ties into a more far-reaching partnership.

Turkey has also worked with Iran, Saudi Arabia's arch-rival in the Middle East, to try to reduce fighting in northern Syria in recent months, and Iranian and Turkish military chiefs exchanged visits a year ago.

Human rights and peace campaigners have been critical of the visit, with the Stop the War Coalition protesting the arrival of the Crown Prince and the United Kingdom sale of arms to the regime in light of human rights abuses in Yemen.

Despite coming under fire from politicians ahead of her meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, May said the countries' relationship will remain strong.

Saudi Arabia has waged a long military campaign in Yemen in support of the internationally recognized government that Houthi rebels drove out of the capital, Sanaa.

Police said a man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after an egg was thrown at police vehicle as bin Salman's motorcade arrived in Downing Street.

Not only has the Crown Prince had lunch with the Queen, but he will also dine with the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge.

The Financial Times ran three promotions for the Crown Prince in today's edition of the paper - two half-page and one full-page - while the Times also printed a half page promotion.

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Downing Street earlier said it hopes the visit, part of the crown prince's maiden foreign tour as heir to the throne, "will usher in a new era in bilateral relations".

Britain seeks to expand its market for service sector exports in Saudi Arabia and attract Saudi cash to finance domestic projects.

Saudi's ambitious heir wants to show that "shock" reforms have made his country a better place to invest and a more tolerant society. London taxis display advertising graphics welcoming Prince Mohammed and electronic billboards promote the visit.

According to British and Saudi sources, bin Salman's visit is expected to bring about several business deals, including an agreement with British defense group BAE Systems and European weapons maker MBDA as well as an initial agreement on gas exploration, petrochemicals and other industries.

The three-day visit will include a second Royal audience - dinner with the Prince Charles and Prince William - a briefing with national security officials, and a prestigious visit to the prime minister's country residence.

Although May noted that she would raise humanitarian concerns about Yemen in his meeting with bin Salman, she stressed that all arms sales to Saudi Arabia were strictly regulated.

The Muslim Association of Britain warned against entering into trade with Saudi Arabia "at the expense of essential values" and said recent "superficial" reforms by the Saudi government should not be taken at face value.

The UK has, so far, sold more than six billion pounds of arms to Saudi Arabia.

"When Theresa May meets the architect of this horror show, she must stress to Mohammed bin Salman that the United Kingdom can no longer provide Saudi Arabia with the political cover and billions in arms sales to continue ripping Yemen apart".

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