British-Saudi ties still strong despite withdrawal of £5.9M prisons contract: British FM

Published November 2nd, 2015 - 08:00 GMT

The UK’s working ties with the Kingdom are deep-rooted and strong despite media reports of tensions between the two allies, according to British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond.

Speaking to Al Arabiya News at the 11th annual International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Manama Dialogue, which concluded on Sunday, Hammond described the status of British-Saudi relations as “business as usual.”

The UK has withdrawn a £5.9 million prisons contract that would have provided a "training needs analysis" for Saudi prison service staff.

Also in recent weeks, observers have noticed intensified critical coverage of Saudi Arabia by a number of British media outlets, in whichsome pundits had repeatedly called for further cancellations of business contracts and a revision of the overall relationship between the two countries.

In response, Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Mohammad bin Nawaf wrote a scathing piece in The Daily Telegraph warning of an “alarming change” in Britain's attitude toward Saudi Arabia after what he described as “breaches in mutual respect.”

Hammond had spent some time in Riyadh last week where he met with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman along with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

“I wouldn’t have had a 45-minute audience with the king otherwise,” Hammond told Al Arabiya News.

As for the cancelled deal, Hammond explained that Justice Secretary Michael Gove had made a decision not to continue the process — because he did not want to divert resources from his department to overseas work. Hammond emphasized that the British-Saudi relationship is “deep rooted and broad-ranging” adding that such a relation will “not be brought down by one small contract that we decided we couldn’t go ahead with.”

“It is business as usual, and the reason we do business together (with Saudi Arabia) is because it’s in our mutual best interest. We support each other in security, we work together on cyber, counter-terrorism, defense collaboration, we support each other’s security, supported the Saudi-led coalition in its actions in defense of the Yemeni government,’ he added.

During his speech at the Manama Dialogue, Hammond reiterated his country’s commitment to ensuring Gulf security, and his government’s determination to combat violent extremism at home, arguing that there should be no tolerance for intolerance.


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