Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince discusses regional stability with UK foreign secretary

Bilateral trade totals more than $11bn and involves 200 joint ventures

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to discuss trade and security issues. SPA
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to discuss trade and security issues. SPA

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince met the British Foreign Secretary on Monday for a series of high-level talks as both countries look to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

After landing in the modern city of Neom, Dominic Raab discussed a wide range of issues with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, setting out Britain’s ambition for a closer partnership with Saudi Arabia through trade and regional security.

Mr Raab also met Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan, with whom global priorities such as the six-year conflict in Yemen were discussed.

Mr Raab is pushing for a political solution to the crisis after a recent surge in Houthi violence, and is focused on humanitarian aid reaching those in need. The two also discussed broader developments in the Middle East and the efforts needed to enhance security and stability.

The region was the focus of a flurry of diplomatic activity after an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, with international efforts under way to strengthen the ceasefire in place.

High on the agenda were security issues with Iran, which continues to breach the nuclear agreement it entered in 2015. The National recently disclosed Tehran had built an arsenal of modern missiles in a secret mountain hideout that threatens Saudi Arabia’s security.

“Saudi Arabia is a longstanding partner and close ally of the UK, playing a pivotal role in regional stability,” Mr Raab said after the talks. “The UK reaffirms our commitment to tackling our shared security challenges, including Iranian threats and the continued conflict in Yemen.”

With both countries having vaccinated a large part of their population against Covid-19, they are now looking to increase their trade ties.

Saudi Arabia is among Britain’s most important trading partners with more than $11 billion in cross-trading between the countries, involving about 200 joint ventures, according to latest figures.

During last year’s G20 summit, Saudi Arabia, then the host country, committed to the new goal of 50 per cent of its domestic power comprising of renewable energy by 2030. It has also launched the Saudi Green Initiative to plant 10 billion trees in the country to mitigate carbon emissions.

“We used this opportunity to look to the future, including building our economies back better from Covid-19 and our work to tackle climate change ahead of Cop26,” Mr Raab said.

The duo also discussed female empowerment, a key component of the reforms initiated by Prince Mohammed in recent years as part of the Vision 2030 programme.

Mr Raab, who has two children, is a keen advocate of women’s education and set the UK a global target of getting 40 million more girls around the world into school by 2025.

"I welcomed Saudi Arabia’s progress towards women’s empowerment," Mr Raab said after the meeting. "The Kingdom shares the UK’s vision of making sure girls globally are able to access 12 years of quality education."

The meeting was attended by Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar, Prince Faisal, Minister of Commerce Majid bin Abdullah Al Qassabi, and Ambassador of the UK to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton, among other Saudi and British officials.

Updated: June 8, 2021 12:15 PM

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