Britain's May in Saudi Arabia seeking deals

2017-04-04 16:42
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. (Dan Kitwood/Pool via AP)

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May. (Dan Kitwood/Pool via AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Riyadh - British Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday hoping to tap the oil-rich kingdom's "immense potential" as she looks to secure post-Brexit investment and trade.

May landed at a military airport in the Saudi capital, state news agency SPA said, coming from Jordan.

Facing criticism at home and calls to raise rights issues with Saudi leaders, May insisted she had no problem talking about "hard issues" on foreign visits.

But, less than a week after Britain officially started a two-year countdown for quitting the European Union, May made clear that economic issues were the priority.

May began a three-day Middle East tour on Monday in Amman, where she touted cooperation between British forces and Jordan's military in the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group.

Both countries 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.

Announced plans

May is expected to have two days of talks with senior officials including King Salman and the country's powerful two crown princes.

In a statement ahead of the visit, May said she would be looking to use the "immense potential for Saudi investment to provide a boost to the British economy".

Britain is looking to strike new trade deals as it prepares to leave the EU, with a major focus on long-time partners like the energy-rich Gulf states.
Qatar, for example, announced plans last month to invest $6.23bn in Britain within five years.

Saudi Arabia is Britain's largest trading partner in the Middle East, with exports of more than 6.5 billion in British goods and services to the country in 2015.

Saudi Arabia is also looking at boosting its foreign investments as part of a long-term plan known as "Vision 2030" to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil revenues.

May came under fire ahead the visit, with opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn demanding she raise concerns about "the dictatorial Saudi monarchy's shocking human rights record".

Call to halt arms sales 

He called on Britain to halt arms sales to Riyadh immediately and to push for a ceasefire in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition intervened two years ago.

The coalition has carried out hundreds of air strikes and sent troops to support Yemen's internationally recognised government against Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels who have seized control of large parts of the country.

More than 7 700 civilians have been killed and a further 42 500 wounded since the start of the campaign, according to the United Nations. Seven million Yemenis are also facing starvation.

Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been among organisations calling for an end to arms sales from Britain and the United States to Saudi Arabia over the coalition's actions in Yemen.

On Sunday, Britain apologised after an egg was thrown at Saudi General Ahmed Assiri, the spokesperson for the coalition, during a recent visit to London.

An anti-war activist last week attempted a citizen's arrest of Assiri, before another threw an egg that hit the spokesperson in the back.

Asked by British reporters if she would bring up humanitarian and rights questions in Riyadh, May told Sky News: "We have no difficulty in raising hard issues with those that we meet, be it in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the world."

Women can achieve

May also pointed to social reforms announced in the Vision 2030 programme, including plans to increase women's participation in the workforce from 22 to 28% by 2020.

Saudi Arabia has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, and is the only country where they are not allowed to drive.

"I hope also that people see me as a woman leader, will see what women can achieve and how women can be in significant positions," May told the BBC.

May is also due to meet Sarah al-Suhaimi, who was appointed as the first female chair of the Saudi stock exchange earlier this year, and a Saudi princess appointed last year to oversee women's sports.

Read more on:    theresa may  |  britain  |  saudi arabia  |  brexit

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.