Archbishop of Canterbury urges Saudi crown prince to treat Christians better

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will receive the red carpet treatment

In his most unbridled attack yet on Saudi Arabia's involvement in the three-year Yemen conflict, Jeremy Corbyn said during prime minister's questions the country was responsible for putting millions at risk of starvation. In the meantime, the crown prince has been given sweeping powers and has launched an ambitious program, Vision 2030, to modernize the country. He thought MBS's visit was an "absolutely grotesque crystallisation of what is wrong with British foreign policy. we are selling arms to Saudi when it is bombing Yemen, causing death, starvation and famine on a catastrophic scale".

They contend Saudi Arabia still has a poor human rights record both domestically - the kingdom carried out over 100 executions in 2017 alone - and internationally. According to one estimate, sales of British weapons to Saudi Arabia increased nearly 500 percent, to 4.6 billion pounds ($6.4 billion), after 2015, when the Saudi intervention in Yemen began.

"The meeting agreed a landmark ambition for around £65 billion ($90.3 billion) of mutual trade and investment opportunities over the coming years, including direct investment in the United Kingdom and new Saudi public procurement with United Kingdom companies", a Downing Street spokesperson said in a press release.

Crown Prince Mohammed said the dispute with Qatar could be long-lasting, comparing it to the USA embargo of Cuba imposed 60 years ago, but played down its impact, dismissing the Gulf emirate as "smaller than a Cairo street". The Save the Children charity protested the visit by installing a statue of a child near parliament "to draw attention to the violence that is being fuelled, in part, by British-made bombs". Saudi Arabia is now the top destination for British-manufactured weapons.

His reported comments reflect Saudi Arabia's deep suspicion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling AK Party has its roots in Islamist politics and who has allied his country with Qatar in its dispute with Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states.

On Friday, he will meet Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson for talks. The crown prince noted there were now "huge opportunities" to boost trade ties post-Brexit.

On Thursday, the crown prince will attend a business conference in London before travelling to the prime minister's country residence, Chequers, in Buckinghamshire outside London, before returning to the capital.

May later said that she would raise the issue of human rights with the crown prince when she met him and that she had spoken with him about humanitarian concerns in Yemen during a visit to Riyadh in December.

She added this would include direct investment in Britain and "new Saudi public procurement with United Kingdom companies".

He also praised the crown prince's reform measures, saying: "The engagement of women in business and government makes a real difference".

The crown prince's trips to Egypt, Britain and later this month the United States are aimed partly at courting investors.

Mohammed bin Salman's visit comes at a time when all eyes are on the heir to the Saudi throne to see what direction the Middle East superpower will take.

Despite all these controversies, as Britain had left European Union, the country wants to strengthen economic relations with Saudi Arabia. The two nations are planning to create a joint Strategic Partnership Council that could lead to Saudi investment of up to 100 billion pounds ($139 billion) in the next 10 years, according to the BBC. There are also hopes that the long-awaited public listing of the state oil firm Saudi Aramco might take place on the London Stock Exchange.

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