By Hitesh Tikoo
London, July 10 (IANS) The Saudi Arabian media said that the UK government has privately praised the oil-rich Kingdom after publicly criticising it for human rights abuses and targeting individuals under the Magnitsky sanctions.
UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace is believed to have privately telephoned his Saudi counterpart on Wednesday to reiterate the the country’s support for the regime and its work, The Independent reported.
The UK had recently sanctioned 20 Saudi nationals for human rights abuses.
The individuals included Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman who is sanctioned over the murder of The Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
The call is being seen in contrast with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s rhetoric in Parliament earlier this week.
Addressing the House of Commons, Raab said: “Those with blood on their hands won’t be free… To waltz into this country, to buy up property on the Kings Road, do their Christmas shopping in Knightsbridge, or siphon dirty money through British banks.
“You cannot set foot in this country, and we will seize your blood-drenched ill-gotten gains if you try.”
The call comes after the international trade secretary, Liz Truss, announced the lifting of a ban on British arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The UK government did not publicise the call, however, Saudi Arabia’s state-run news agency did not miss the opportunity to boast about it in a press statement issued on Wednesday.
A statement by the Saudi Press Agency said: “His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Minister of Defense, received yesterday a phone call from His Excellency British Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, during which the partnership between the two countries was discussed, especially in the defence field, and the efforts made by the two countries to enhance regional and international security.”
Saudi Arabian media reported that the Minister “expressed his country’s appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s role in addressing threats to stability in the region”.
“He also affirmed the country’s government’s keenness to strengthen defence relations between the two friendly countries, especially in the field of military exports to the Kingdom,” it added.