Saudi crown prince faces protest as UK trip kicks off

Saudi crown prince faces protest as UK trip kicks off
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been met the UK's Prime Minister Theresa May in London, as protesters held rallies against the visit.
3 min read
08 March, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been met with protest at the start of his controversial state visit to the UK.

Around 200 demonstrators lined up outside the gates of Downing Street on Wednesday evening to condemn Riyadh's involvement in the brutal war in Yemen.

"Bin Salman is a war criminal," the crowd shouted while holding up placards saying: "Hands off Yemen" and "Stop Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE".

"The prince should be persecuted instead of being invited here and having the red carpet rolled out for him," one protester told The New Arab.

Demonstrators also called for an end to the Saudi-led blockade of neighbouring Qatar.

The Save the Children charity protested the visit by installing a statue of a child near parliament "to draw attention to the violence that is being fuelled, in part, by British-made bombs".

Queen Elizabeth II welcomed the crown prince at Buckingham Palace ahead of talks with Prime Minister Theresa May.

May defended the invitation when she was grilled in parliament over Prince Mohammed's three-day visit.

"The link with Saudi Arabia we have is historic, it is an important one and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country" due to anti-terrorism cooperation, she told lawmakers.

"Their involvement in Yemen came at the request of the legitimate government of the Yemen, it is backed by the UN Security Council and as such we support it."

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused May's government of "colluding" in war crimes by selling arms to Saudi Arabia, and even suggested that British military advisers were "directing the war".

Bin Salman and May met at Downing Street for talks on reforms in Saudi Arabia, trade and investment relations and defence and security cooperation.

Following the talks, a Downing Street spokeswoman said May "welcomed recent reforms in Saudi Arabia, including on women" and had raised the UK's "deep concerns" at the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

"The prime minister and crown prince agreed on the importance of full and unfettered humanitarian and commercial access, including through the ports, and that a political solution was ultimately the only way to end the conflict and humanitarian suffering in Yemen."

The spokeswoman said the summit yielded "a landmark ambition" for around £65 billion ( $90 billion) of mutual trade and investment opportunities in coming years in areas ranging from education to defence.

Later on Wednesday, Prince Mohammed was due to be hosted for dinner by heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, with Prince William among the guests.

More than 9,200 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition joined the government's fight against the Houthi rebels.

More than eight million people are at risk of famine as port blockades, cholera and diphtheria bring the Arab world's most impoverished country to its knees.

The UK has licensed £4.6 billion ($6.3 billion) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it began the intervention in neighbouring Yemen.