The British Prime Minister arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to strengthen bilateral ties and increase trade with the largest Arab economy despite its ‘human rights abuses’ in Yemen.
Theresa May says it is in the national interest to have good relations with Saudi Arabia despite its controversial human rights record.
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The PM started her two day trip by meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations and ensure strong ties with the kingdom as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.
She is expected to meet King Salman on Wednesday.
Press TV reports: 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.
“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.
Complicity in Saudi crimes
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.