Welsh MP grills Foreign Secretary over Saudi Arabia links
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss offered a robust defence of the UK’s ties to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, stressing that the world is not “perfect”.
During an appearance at the Foreign Affairs Committee, she repeatedly declined to name a specific human rights issue she had raised in talks with Gulf State leaders and refused to answer a question about the murder of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul four years ago.
Talks on a fresh trade deal between the UK and six Gulf nations began in recent days, with Saudi Arabia expected to become a key source of oil as western states bid to wean themselves off Russian fuel.
But an attempt to foster better relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States is controversial, amid questions over their record on human rights.
Ms Truss repeatedly declined to criticise Saudi Arabia, under questioning from Chris Bryant, the MP for Rhondda.
He asked Ms Truss how she would describe the Gulf States.
“I would describe the Gulf States as partners of the United Kingdom,” she said.
“Is every country that we work with exactly in line with United Kingdom policy on everything? No, they are not,” she told the committee.
“But they are important allies of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Bryant also asked Ms Truss if Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The Foreign Secretary replied: “What I would say is that Saudi Arabia is an important partner of the United Kingdom.”
“What I am focused on is making sure we are dealing with the major threats to the world. The number one threat we are dealing with at the moment is the threat from Russia.
“In order to do that, we need to make sure we have alternative energy sources.
“We are not dealing with a perfect world. We are dealing in a world where we have to make difficult decisions and I think it is right that we build that closer trading relationship with the Gulf States.”
Ms Truss, questioned again by Mr Bryant, declined repeatedly to name a human rights issue she had raised with the Gulf States.
But she insisted she had done so.
“I will have to come back to the committee on precise timing of that,” she said.
“You can’t remember a single human rights issue you have raised with a Gulf States leader?” Mr Bryant asked, visibly exasperated.
Ms Truss said she would not go into the details of private conversations, but indicated that she would write to the committee.
“What we are facing with Russia is a regime that is actively seeking to invade sovereign nations and create a greater Russia – recreate the former Soviet Union,” she told the committee, as she was pressed to distinguish between the UK attitudes to Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian regimes.
She said the previous approach to Russia by the West was “wrong”.
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