Published: Thu, April 13, 2017
Research | By Jo Caldwell

Saudi-UK talks focus on security, trade

Saudi-UK talks focus on security, trade

But the visit has proved controversial politically and with campaigning groups as the Prime Minister offers United Kingdom assistance to Saudi Arabia in reforming its Ministry of Defence, reviewing Saudi defence capabilities and the integration of its armed forces.

She added that the relationship between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia was imperative for security, defence and trade. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama also chose not to wear headscarves during their visit to Saudi Arabia.

Asked if May would be raising the issue of Yemen during the visit, her spokesman said it was "not on the agenda".

May was expected to explore ways of boosting trade ties with the kingdom during her two-day visit, her second to a Gulf Arab state since Britain made a decision to leave the EU.

May landed in Riyadh on Tuesday and was greeted by several princes, including the emir of Riyadh.

Jordan and Britain are part of the US-led coalition that has been carrying out air strikes and supporting local forces against IS in Syria and Iraq since mid-2014.

According to a statement from her office, May and Saudi King Salman discussed "tax and privatisation standards to help Saudi Arabia diversify its economy and become less reliant on oil".

The Prime Minister also said she hoped to use the trip to send a message about female leadership in a country where women need permission from a male guardian to travel and are barred from driving.

Britain is looking to strike new trade deals as it prepares to leave the European Union, with a major focus on longtime partners such as the energy-rich Gulf states.

Qatar, for example, announced plans last month to invest £5 billion ($6.23 billion/5.8 billion euros) in Britain within five years.

He criticised the "dictatorial Saudi monarchy's shocking human rights record" and said the PM should focus on human rights and worldwide law at the centre of her talks.

During the meeting, the sides mulled the bilateral relations and cooperation, particularly in defense.

The Saudis back the war-torn country's internationally recognised government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The two-year-old civil war has killed more than 10,000 people, half of them civilians.

Those exports include arms sales, which have drawn criticism from activists who say May should do more to pressure Saudi Arabia on its human rights record.

May is scheduled to meet with Saudi Princess Reema today, who previous year became the first woman to be appointed to a government role when she was made vice-president for women's affairs in the country's governing sports body.

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