Saudi ambassador to UK complains of lack of respect

Saudi ambassador to UK complains of lack of respect
Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain has complained of a lack of "mutual respect" between the two countries and warned of "potentially serious repercussions."
3 min read
29 October, 2015
Relations between Saudi and Britain could turn tense under pressure from the British opposition [AFP]

In an article for the London Daily Telegraph on Monday, the Saudi Arabian envoy to Britain Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz criticised a recent decision to cancel a British government contract to train prison staff in the Gulf State.

"The importance of Saudi Arabia to the UK and the Middle East's security, as well as its vital role in the larger Arab world as the epicentre of Islam, seems to be of little concern to those who have fomented this change," he wrote. 

The Saudi ambassador said attacks on his country by media outlets and politicians threatened to damage the "mutually beneficial" partnership between London and Riyadh.

The envoy said mutual respect was breached when opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn lobbied against the contract, linking it to Saudi Arabia's rights record.  

Prime Minister David Cameron's office says the contract's cancellation was a financial decision unrelated to cases including the threatened flogging of a British expat who breached strict alcohol laws.

Britain has also been appealing to the Saudi government to stop the execution of activist Ali al-Nimr (21 years old), as it had intervened previously to halt the lashing of blogger Raif Badawi.

Corbyn had personally written to the British Prime Minister David Cameron, urging him to intervene to stop the execution of Ali al-Nimr.

Despite the spat, in truth, the two countries' government have been increasing their cooperation on political and security issues, not to mention major joint business ventures that have created thousands of jobs in Britain. 

Defence contracts with Saudi Arabia have been a top priority for successive British governments since the 1980s, starting with the government of Margaret Thatcher and the famous al-Yamamah arms deal.

     Saudi Arabia is a sovereign state. Our Kingdom is led by our rulers alone, and our rulers are led by Islam alone.
Saudi Ambassador to UK

The Saudi diplomat reminded the British public of Saudi Arabia's "contribution to Britain's security and economy," with the kingdom providing "over 50,000 British families in the UK and the Kingdom with livelihoods, thanks to commercial contracts worth tens of billions of pounds."

The ambassador stressed that his government refuses Western "interference" in Saudi internal affairs.

"Saudi Arabia is a sovereign state. Our Kingdom is led by our rulers alone, and our rulers are led by Islam alone. Our religion is Islam and our constitution is based on the Holy Qu'ran. Our justice system is based on Sharia law. Just as we respect the local traditions, customs, laws and religion of Britain, we expect Britain to grant us this same respect."
In truth, the UK Minister of Justice did not state the reasons why the prison contract with Saudi Arabia was cancelled, which has convinced many that the move was the result of pressure by the British opposition.

Corbyn seems to be bent on continuing to criticise and pressure Saudi Arabia, perhaps more than any other British leader today.

In mid-October, the Labour leader began his weekly YouTube podcast by highlighting the ordeals of Andree and Nimr, stressing the need for the British government to prioritise human rights issues in its international relations.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.