Saudi Arab

British MPs: UK is not well received in Saudi Arabia

britishBritain is concerned by “credibility problem” in Saudi Arabia despite what it claims to be supporting actions for reforms in the kingdom, described by many MPs as “one of the least democratic states in the world with a notoriously poor human rights record”.
Britain’s foreign affairs committee’s fifth report has focused on UK relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, both facing condemnation for extensive human rights violations and silencing pro-reform voices.
After a year-long investigation into Britain’s relations with Saudi Arabia the committee has expressed concern about “limited but worrying evidence of a poor public perception of the UK in Saudi Arabia.”
Through the report, the MPs are also asking the UK government to “assess” the supply of weapons by Saudi Arabia to militants and extremist groups in Syria who are seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
However they say there would be no advantage in stopping lucrative UK arms sales to the conservative kingdom – triggering immediate condemnation of a “whitewash” by campaigners.
Saudi Arabia is Britain’s biggest market in the Middle East and has an estimated £62bn invested in the UK. The UK has granted export licenses for almost £4bn worth of defense equipment over the last five years.
In a phrase which will cause irritation in Riyadh, MPs described Saudi Arabia as “part of the problem as well as part of the solution” in counter-terrorism co-operation. In 2006 the Saudis threatened to end co-operation with the UK unless the serious fraud office dropped its investigation into BAE Systems over the al-Yamamah arms deal. The investigation was shelved on national security grounds.
The government was urged to try to “improve the monitoring of the funding flowing from Saudi Arabia to organizations with an extremist message” and to ensure that its “legitimate promotion of religious values does not inadvertently contribute to the furtherance of extremism.”
It was also asked to give an “assessment of the situation and the actions it is taking to monitor Syrian rebel groups that are receiving funding and arms from Saudi Arabia, and its efforts to engage with the Saudi authorities regarding any concerns about them.”
Saudi Arabia has signaled a more aggressive approach to the Syria crisis since August’s agreement between the US and Russia over country’s chemical weapons arsenal ended the threat of US-led air strikes.
British MPs voted against any military action against Syria.
The report by the MPs further says “We understand that to encourage a government such as that of Saudi Arabia towards reform, a combination of private and public pressure is required. By their very nature, private conversations are difficult to explain publicly. However, we are particularly concerned that some witnesses not only disagreed with UK policy but appeared to disbelieve the government’s account of its private conversations with Saudi Arabia on reform. The government appears to have a credibility problem and must do more to explain its policies and consider where it can point to specific progress as a result of its human rights work.”


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