Theresa May urges 'accountability' over Khashoggi murder while claiming 'importance' of Saudi-UK relationship

Theresa May urges 'accountability' over Khashoggi murder while claiming 'importance' of Saudi-UK relationship
May called for a 'political solution' to end the war in Yemen - but her government until recently supplied arms to Saudi Arabia.
3 min read
29 June, 2019
May's government has endeavoured to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia [Getty]

UK Prime Minister Theresa May called on Saudi Arabia to adhere to an "open and transparent" legal process over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a senior government official said.

Meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan, May urged Saudi de-facto ruler and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to bring about "accountability" for the murder of the dissident Saudi journalist, The Guardian reported.

Khashoggi, who had been based in the US before his death, was brutally killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

His death prompted international uproar and calls to break strategic ties with the ultraconservative kingdom. 

The outrage over the near-all-powerful crown prince and his alleged responsibility for the killing has been compounded by the prosecution of Saudi women’s rights activists and the country's leading role in the devastating war on Yemen.

Despite that outrage often being expressed by world leaders such as May, Western politicians have generally skirted concrete action on countering rights abuses by Saudi Arabia.

At the G20 meeting, May and bin Salman "concluded by agreeing on the importance of the relationship" between the two nations and its role in providing "regional stability".

May's government has explicitly avoided cutting its lucrative arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

A German arms export ban to the kingdom initially prompted fears for the UK arms industry, but a pleading letter by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and further negotiations led to a fruitful exemption of arms produced outside of Germany using German parts.

Under that exemption, the UK has continued to supply fighter jets to Riyadh.

Those arms exports were last month ruled to be illegal by the Uk court of appeal due to the government's had "made no attempt" to assess the potential humanitarian impact of their use.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said the government will appeal against the ruling.

“The PM reiterated the need to keep working on finding a political solution to end the conflict, which is causing significant humanitarian suffering," the unnamed government official told The Guardian

The UN has described the war in Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with thousands dead and millions on the brink of starvation.

The G20 summit is expected to be among May's last international engagements as prime minister.

The prime minister resigned from her post last month, with a new successor as Conservative Party leader and prime minister due to be announced on 23 July.

It is unclear when the successor - either former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt - will take up the role of prime minister.