US, Saudi Arabia agree to finalize warplane deal despite protests

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Attends Audience With Queen Elizabeth II At Buckingham Palace

Saudi Arabia could be set to acquire a follow-on batch of 48 Eurofighter Typhoons, pending the conclusion of government-to-government discussions with the United Kingdom disclosed on 9 March.

Britain on Friday signed a multi-billion-pound preliminary order for Saudi Arabia to purchase 48 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets, despite its criticism of the kingdom's war in Yemen.

BAE Chief Executive Charles Woodburn said it was a positive step towards agreeing a contract with a valued partner.

Saudi Crown Prince reviewed with the UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson the means of strategic cooperation and developing defense, military and anti-terrorism efforts, on Friday, at the North Holt Air Base.

Shares in BAE were up 2.3% at 602.80 pence in afternoon trade.

Before his visit, the 32-year-old royal said both countries would be "much safer if you have a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia".

The thorny topic of Yemen was on the agenda at a private dinner at May's country residence on Thursday night, but it was tempered with gifts: May's office said she presented Prince Mohammed with a family tree showing the descent of the Al Saud dynasty.

But she has also raised concerns about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen with the Crown Prince during his visit.

May's government has remained defiant in the face of growing pressure to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia, defending the sales amid evidence of war crimes and civilian deaths in Yemen.

Before his visit, the 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed had emphasised the importance of the relationship between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia regarding security.

According to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, over the past three years, Britain has licensed $6.4 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

BAE, Europe's biggest defence contractor, has long awaited a major Saudi order for Typhoons, and slowed production in 2016 to ensure it would remain competitive.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is the most advanced swing-role combat aircraft available and there are nearly 500 in service across Europe.

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