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UK Prime Minister Theresa May has met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, on a trip to ensure strong ties with the kingdom as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.
May was welcomed by senior Saudi officials after arriving in Riyadh’s King Khalid International airport on Tuesday.
She kicked off the two-day stay at the country by meeting Nayef, discussing ways to strengthen bilateral relations. They also touched on terrorism and the ongoing peace process in the Middle East. The premier was slated to meet King Salman on Wednesday.
London is seeking to become a leading partner of the monarchy in its Vision 2030 program, under which the Saudi leaders seek to reduce reliance on oil exports, hire more women and boost their culture.
Reforming the Saudi war machine, helping the kingdom diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on oil are some of the areas May is expected to discuss with Salman.
British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in Riyadh, April 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
“These new partnerships, on defense and security, trade and the economy, education, healthcare, culture and sport, evidence the breadth and depth of the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia,” said May.
The prime minister also expressed her government’s full support for the Vision 2030, calling it “ambitious.”
Both the UK and Saudi Arabia have supported extremist militant groups that have been waging an wars against the governments of Iraq and Syria over the past few years.
Britain has been one of the biggest suppliers of weapons to Riyadh for 40 years, providing the Saudi rulers with advanced weapons throughout the kingdom’s ruthless war on Yemen, which has left thousands of women and children dead.
The UK exported more than £6.5 billion in goods and services to Saudi Arabia in 2015, making it Britain’s largest trading partner in the Middle East.
Before heading to Saudi Arabia, May sought similar objectives in Jordan. She discussed terrorism and expansion of mutual ties with the country with the kingdom’s monarch, King Abdullah II.
In response to criticism about London’s silence over the Saudi aggression against Yemen, May defended the British relationship with Saudi Arabia and said she had no problem bringing up the country’s human rights record during the trip.
Speaking to Press TV on Tuesday, Catherine Shakdam, director of Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, warned that May’s plans to extend ties with Riyadh would make her an accomplice in the Yemen war.
“Her policy is to turn a blind eye to a genocide in Yemen and the promotion of Wahhabism/terrorism across the world for the sake of her country’s economic future,” she added. “It is a non-argument… because you can’t base growth or even the future of the country on war crimes.”
Shakdam noted that since May was not “picked by the people,” her actions did not reflect the will of the British people either.
The analyst also argued that May’s plans suited the Riyadh regime’s policy of lobbying and “buying out” the Western nations’ silence through lucrative deals in order to forward its own plans in the region.
“It is very difficult for anyone looking at this and not realize that we have reached a tipping point where it is not about politics anymore, it is about right and wrong, ” Shakdam concluded.
2017.04.05 / 17:48