UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has thanked Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his “personal role” in securing the release of five British prisoners held by Russia-backed forces in Ukraine.
Russia last week released 10 prisoners of war — five Britons and others from Morocco, the US, Sweden and Croatia — following Saudi mediation.
Two US military veterans who disappeared while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces were part of the prisoner swap.
Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, went missing after their unit came under heavy fire in the Kharkiv region of north-eastern Ukraine on June 9.
During what was Ms Truss's first call with Prince Mohammed since she took office, a statement issued by a No 10 representative said the British leader had “thanked the Crown Prince for his personal role in securing the release of five British detainees held by Russia-backed forces in eastern Ukraine last week, to the great relief of their families”.
It also said she “offered the UK’s continued support and encouragement for progress in Saudi Arabia’s domestic reforms”.
“[Ms Truss and Prince Mohammed] discussed the strategic partnership between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia across a range of issues, including co-operation on defence and energy security,” the statement added.
“The leaders welcomed progress in ending the conflict in Yemen and agreed on the importance of continuing political dialogue to extend the truce.”
The prime minister also reiterated her focus on coming to an agreement on a strong UK-GCC trade deal and growing bilateral trade and investment in areas such aviation and clean technology, the statement said.
“She also offered the UK's continued support and encouragement for progress in Saudi Arabia's domestic reforms,” it continued.
“The Crown Prince extended his sincere condolences on the death of Her Majesty the queen, and the leaders looked forward to continuing to grow the strong relationship fostered during her late Majesty's reign.”
The five British prisoners included Aiden Aslin, one of three men captured while fighting for Ukraine and sentenced to death in June.
“I am delighted that my constituent, Aiden Aslin, and the other British prisoners of war held captive by the Russian authorities have finally been released and are on their way back to the UK,” MP Robert Jenrick said last week.